Abby Powell
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Abby Powell


About Abby Powell

Abby Powell is a native of Northeastern Massachusetts who splits her time between commuting into Boston for work and caring for and riding her rescue Mustang x Arab mare, Maggie.

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Partners of the Park Help Eventing Thrive in Ocala

Photo courtesy of POP on Facebook.

Photo courtesy of POP on Facebook.

If you’re lucky enough to have migrated down to Ocala, Florida for the winter then you’re likely familiar with the Florida Horse Park (FHP). The 500 acres in the Florida Greenway are home to various equestrian events year-round including four USEA-sanctioned events and a multitude of schooling shows and clinics.

While the headlining item each year for eventing-enthusiasts may be the Ocala International Three-Day Festival of Eventing, which hosts divisions up to CCI2* in addition to combined tests up to Advanced, this event and others at the park may not be possible today if it were not for the hard work and dedication of a self-described motley crew of equestrian enthusiasts who call themselves the Partners of the Park (POP).

While initially established in 1997, the FHP emerged onto the eventing scene in 2005 hosting its first horse trials in the fall of that year over a cross country course designed by David O’Connor. The park further established itself as a world-class venue in the spring of 2006 by holding its first international three-day event. But the initial prosperity of the park was cut short as the state of Florida reallocated its finances during the nationwide economic recession of the late 2000s .

The future of the park hung by a thread without the state funding it depended on and found itself in a $1 million debt by 2009. It seemed that the final nail in the coffin was delivered when the Horse Park license plate project was unexpectedly shot down at the final step before approval. The license plates were estimated to bring in $250,000 annually and the process had already cost $100,000 that the park couldn’t afford to lose.

Cross country jumps after some end-of-season freshening up. Photo courtesy of POP on Facebook.

Cross country jumps after some end-of-season freshening up. Photo courtesy of POP on Facebook.

In May of that year the Horse Park’s Board of Directors met to discuss the remaining 2009 season as well as the long-term future of the horse park. As a result of the financial difficulties that the park was experiencing, the Board was forced to lay off key FHP staff and discussed cancelling many of the events scheduled to take place at the park that year. The public was invited to attend that board meeting to offer their opinions on the future of the park and as luck would have it, several members of the community — Simone Cormier, Charlie Hicks and Jen Holling — who would end up changing the future of the park were present at that fateful meeting.

As the board deliberated cancelling an upcoming schooling three-phase which was part of a season-long series of schooling events, Simone, Charlie and Jen came up with a plan. They recognized the asset that schooling shows can be and realized that with the park’s current financial situation, what it desperately needed was money supporting its infrastructure.

With a little convincing, and the help of Lesli Cohen, the FHP volunteer coordinator at the time, and Damian Guthrie, local show jumper and FHP treasurer, they reached a deal with the Executive Director: The three of them would completely manage and run the schooling events. Half of the profits generated by the schooling shows would be given back to FHP management and the other half would be used at the trio’s discretion and funneled back into the park’s infrastructure wherever they determined it was needed the most. The Partners of the Park was born.

Simone, Charlie and Jen have been running the POP schooling events ever since and each of these three musketeers has a unique set of talents and backgrounds that they bring to the table. Simone is an industrial engineer by trade and her organization and planning experience gave her a leg up on the organization of events and acting as show secretary. Charlie is a former Chief of Police who is both great at people management and has a knack for cross country jump building.

Charlie and Simone are both Massachusetts transplants and longtime friends, and they met Jen at that momentous Board of Directors meeting. A three-star level eventer herself, Jen brings a plethora of equine experience and eventing know-how.

“We formed a friendship and got together and said, ‘What more can we do?’ That’s how we started POP,” said Charlie.

Charlie, Simone, Steve (former FHP Facilities Manager) and Jenn in 2010. Photo courtesy of Simone Cormier.

Charlie, Simone, Steve (former FHP Facilities Manager) and Jenn in 2010. Photo courtesy of Simone Cormier.

Charlie estimates that in the nearly eight years that the Partners have facilitated the schooling events they have contributed over $750,000 in cash and infrastructure to the park. Over the years they have kept fields mowed, purchased new equipment such as a water truck and ground aerators, repaired old jumps and built new ones, and paid for salaries when needed. Most recently they commissioned 19 new jumps built by Jay Hambly and Tommy Neneman and have a new water complex under construction.

While POP mainly features eventing, the FHP itself hosts a vast assortment of equine events and more throughout the year, all of which have benefitted in some way form the support that POP has generated. “It takes all the equestrians disciplines to make the venue successful,” said Charlie.

“We have dressage riders, eventers, and jumpers all coming together to use what the park has to offer. While our base clientele has always been eventers,” Jen said. “I see that our events have opened up the horse park to a larger community. With the growth of the park amenities alongside our own growing show clientele I see this trend continuing into the future.”

POP started out just by hosting a monthly three-phase, but has now grown to include additional schooling opportunities as well. A Saturday cross country schooling day now precedes each three-phase on Sunday, offering competitors the chance to familiarize themselves and their horses with the types of obstacles they might encounter beforehand. Additionally, at each three-phase one can ‘mix-and-match’ phases such that they can choose to compete in any one, two, or all three of the phases that day. Finally, from January to March on ‘Winter Wednesdays’ POP operates a jumper show and dressage fix-a-test clinics and opens up cross country schooling.

“We want everyone to come and have a great school so that they can go off the recognized shows and be safe and confident,” Simone said.

Though POP events mainly focus on the lower-levels, there is still something for everyone. Dressage and stadium can be ridden at a higher level and a few professionals even include the March or April schooling shows in their preparations for Rolex Kentucky. Throughout the year you may also be able to find various upper-level riders taking their young horses out for some low-key show mileage.

Schooling show entire fees buy brand new stadium rails! Photo via POP on Facebook.

Schooling show entire fees buy brand new stadium rails! Photo via POP on Facebook.

“We started POP as a short term solution for the horse park but in retrospect we actually solved a long term problem in the horse community,” said Jen. “We make available a facility that helps professionals economically school young horses and prepare their top partners and we allow amateurs to compete in an affordable and and educational atmosphere where we are here to help.”

“The wonderful thing about running schooling shows is that we have such a culture of eventers and equestrians — from the people just getting started to the people that have been representing different countries internationally,” Charlie added. “Everyone intermingles and comes together.”

The Partners have seen steady growth in the attendance at their events over the years, thanks in part to their hard work and dedication to keeping the events running and the awareness of them being spread by word of mouth. Additionally, Charlie has observed that with each year there seems to be more folks coming from out of state or up from Wellington: “This place is like magnet and its just growing. The land itself is very suitable for the equine industry.”

Even with the recent growth the area has seen, there’s still room to expand at the FHP. “If you’ve ever had the opportunity to step foot on the park and see the 500 acres there you know that there’s a lot that could be accomplished,” said Charlie. Recent growth in the greater Ocala area has benefitted the Horse Park as well, the new Ocala Jockey Club International Three-Day Event has brought more riders and healthy competition to Marion County.

While it’s these three folks — Simone, Jen and Charlie — who form the organizational backbone at the heart of the Partners of the Park, there are many more boots-on-the-ground volunteers that make the events each week possible. “A lot of the volunteers working with us have been helping us out since the beginning and we wouldn’t be able to do what we do without them,” said Charlie. “It’s all folks interested in putting their shoulders together and seeing what we could do to make the park successful.”

Having now hosted the park’s schooling events for eight years, Simone, Jen and Charlie are ready to take a bit of a back seat. “At this point we would love to just maybe take a step back and be there for hands on help,” said Simone.

Charlie puts the finishing touches on a key-hole obstacle. Photo via POP on Facebook.

Charlie puts the finishing touches on a keyhole fence. Photo via POP on Facebook.

The trio has the organization and running of the events down to a science and can easily help the next generation of park facility staff learn the ropes, but they have yet to hand over the reins of the organizational responsibilities of POP due to the sometimes quick turnover of park facilities staff.

“The challenge has been to work with the park’s administration and get a pliable business plan to keep the place successful,” said Charlie, who now sits on the Board of Directors as Vice-Chair. “We have that relationship now and the direction is very positive.”

“This is the future. Schooling shows are where everybody starts off. These are the people that could be up at the top of the sport in another four or five years. If we can make it affordable and give them a good experience then they’re going to stick with it.”

From Pony Camp to Two-Star: Meet Zoe Crawford of the USEF Eventing 25 List

Earlier this week we met Cornelia Dorr, one of two first-timers named to the 2017 Eventing 25 Emerging Athlete Program. Today we meet the next rider, Zoe Crawford. Many thanks to JJ Sillman for sharing her photos of Zoe!

Zoe Crawford and K.E.C. Zara. Photo by JJ Sillman.

Zoe Crawford and K.E.C. Zara. Photo by JJ Sillman.

At the tender age of 1, Zoe Crawford’s mother remembers her little girl pitching a fit when it was time to get off a merry-go-round. “Of course I don’t remember that,” Zoe said, “but she says that was my first introduction to horses.” Something similar happened the next year on a pony ride at a local fair. “I kept wanting to go again and again.”

Horses have been a lifelong love for the now 21-year-old Zoe Crawford, whose passion has taken her all the way to the CCI2* level and being named to the 2017 USEF Eventing 25 Emerging Athlete program.

Zoe started taking riding lessons at the age of 6 and began eventing after high school. Living inside the city of Boston didn’t make eventing the most easily accessible equestrian discipline, but it’s fitting that Zoe’s plethora of other other equestrian experiences led her to eventing.

Her family found a barn just outside of the city in the Blue Hills area that she and her parents, who both also ride, could go for trail rides. “The ring would freeze over in the winter and there was no indoor, so I would spend the whole winter riding through the snowy hills,” Zoe recounted. “It was like a winter wonderland out there.”

Her family spent their summers at a cabin in a small town in New Hampshire, and Zoe attended camp at a nearby hunter/jumper barn run by Jenny Williams, whose brother, George Williams, is president of the USDF.

“Jenny was really incredible at making learning to ride fun,” Zoe said. “Although her barn mostly did hunter/jumper, she really stressed understanding dressage and being able to ride over all terrain.”

Zoe credits riding under Jenny’s instruction during those summers with influencing her love of cross country. “During camp we would set up little cross country courses that included stacks of old tires and really anything we could get our hands on,” she said. “When it would rain a lot we would pretend the big puddles in the parking lot was a water complex.”

Zoe Crawford and K.E.C. Zara. Photo by JJ Sillman.

Zoe Crawford and K.E.C. Zara. Photo by JJ Sillman.

Zoe mostly competed in the jumpers throughout high school in addition to being a member of Norfolk Hunt Pony Club, where she got her first taste of eventing thanks to Jeanie Clarke, a frequent instructor within the local chapter. A fellow Massachusetts native, Jeanie based her teaching/training business in the Metrowest region of the state before moving permanently to Florida in 2012.

“I knew that Jeanie was a great teacher and I really enjoyed her style. As a high school senior I applied to college but knew that I wanted to take a gap year before attending, so I asked if I could be a working student and come down to Florida with her. I spent the next year with her in Ocala working and competing, and I’ve been training with her ever since,” Zoe said.

“I think that I wanted to start eventing because I loved the thrill and fun of going out on trail rides, but I also enjoyed learning dressage because of how it helped my show jumping. It was really something that I had always wanted to do but because of location wasn’t able to.”

Working for Jeanie not only immersed Zoe in the world of eventing but helped her to develop as horsewoman as well. “Jeanie takes no shortcuts and gives the horses the best care possible; she has really shown me that all the little things that you do to make the horses happy in the barn really pays off,” Zoe said. “The stable always has a relaxed atmosphere that I think is really beneficial to the horses’ mindsets. I have really learned from her that you can’t make any shortcuts in horse management or training.”

Zoe has been partnered with her mount K.E.C. Zara, a now 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare, for nearly five years. She was imported by Cormac Kennedy, who ran the barn outside of Boston where Zoe took riding lessons. Zoe recalled visiting the mare while still in quarantine and had an instant connection without even taking her out of the stall: “As soon as I saw her, I just knew that she was my next horse!”

Zara is a mare with a big personality and isn’t afraid to let Zoe know what she likes and dislikes. Though she can get a bit hot at shows, the mare loves cross country. “She is a beast on cross country,” Zoe said. “Nothing fazes her. The harder the course the more she eats it up.” Indeed, the pair’s USEA record is completely clear of cross country jumping faults.

Zoe and Zara completed their first CIC* in the fall of 2015 before making the move up to Intermediate the following January. After two top 10 finishes at Intermediate, they followed up those performances with finishes just outside the top 10 in two spring CIC2* events, followed by their CCI2* debut in April at the Ocala Horse Properties International Three-Day Festival of Eventing. Their 2016 season culminated in a fourth-place individual finish at NAJYRC in the CICY2* as they represented Areas III and IV.

Zoe Crawford and K.E.C. Zara. Photo by JJ Sillman.

Zoe Crawford and K.E.C. Zara. Photo by JJ Sillman.

Having made the trip out to Colorado, Zoe knew it was time to look to the next step in her eventing career and decided to apply to the USEF Emerging Athlete program. “Making Eventing 25 was one of my goals after getting to NAJYRC,” she said. “I wanted to apply because I want to know what it is like to really train at the top level and learn what it takes to represent the USA.”

Zoe is excited to gain a gamut of knowledge during the training sessions with USEF Developing Coach Leslie Law. “Since I have not been at this level for very long I hope to really fine-tune some of our skills. In addition to the riding aspect, I hope to learn a lot about managing upper-level horses through the lectures. I would especially like to learn about sponsorships, owners and what goes into being a top professional in this sport,” Zoe said.

“Additionally, I do not know very many people my age in eventing. Going to NAJYRC this past summer was really fun because I got to meet so many people around my age, and I am really excited to meet more people through Eventing 25.”

Zoe ultimately has her eye on the four-star level and believes that Zara is the horse to take her there. “I think she has the talent, scope and attitude for it,” she said.

Zoe hopes to produce more young horses to the upper levels and dreams of overseas competition someday. “Of course I would love to represent the U.S. one day,” she said. “Competing overseas has always been a dream of mine, and I would love to be able to compete at any of the big events in Europe.”

Go Zoe! Go Eventing!

Talent Spotted! Meet Cornelia Dorr of the 2017 USEF Eventing 25 List

Cornelia Dorr and Louis M. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld. Cornelia Dorr and Louis M. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Among the 2017 Eventing 25 Program selected riders, 18-year-old Cornelia Dorr is a bit of a rookie. She is one of two riders named to the list who have never taken part in the USEF Emerging Athlete Eventing programs before and the only one who has never completed a CIC2* or CCI2*. Cornelia was talent spotted into the program having just come off a stellar 2016 season.

“I applied knowing I didn’t meet the qualification of having completed a CCI2* that year, but that it was possible to be talent spotted,” she said. “I didn’t think there was really a high chance at all of me getting it and I was really surprised!”

Cornelia was bitten by the horse bug as a youngster. “I was always that little girl that only talked about horses,” she said.

Though at first when she started begging her parents for riding lessons, she and her family lived just outside of New York City without a good lesson barn available nearby. That all changed when they moved to Hamilton, Massachusetts, a town with a rich equestrian heritage.

Once settled in Hamilton, Cornelia began riding ponies at a local lesson barn and a few years later, at the age of 10, she began riding under the tutelage of Babette Lenna at Gathering Farm and her interest turned to eventing specifically. “I never wanted to be confined to riding in an arena all the time,” she said.

Growing up primarily in Massachusetts and later attending a boarding high school in Maryland has allowed Cornelia to already accumulate a breadth of competition experience up and down the East Coast. Spring and fall seasons have been spent riding and training with Sharon White at Last Frontier Farm; most summers she traveled back home to New England and continued her training with Babette; and winters were spent in Aiken with Babette while still keeping up with school through the use of an online tutor.

Cornelia currently has two competition horses, the first of which, Sir Patico MH (“Hugo”), a now 11-year-old Warmblood/Thoroughbred gelding, was acquired nearly six years ago and has carried her from Beginner Novice all the way through Preliminary during her high school years and the pair moved up to Intermediate this past October.

“Hugo’s heart is amazingly big and he would do anything for me,” Cornelia said. “He naturally wants to please and I think that’s what makes him so talented in my eyes. I didn’t have the upper-levels in mind when I bought him, but he has just kept stepping up to the plate.”

Cornelia Dorr and Sir Patico MH. Photo by Joan Davis/ Flatlandsfoto.

Cornelia Dorr and Sir Patico MH. Photo by Joan Davis/ Flatlandsfoto.

2016 was a big year for Cornelia and Hugo: the pair tackled their first CCI1* at the Ocala Horse Properties International 3-Day Festival of Eventing and were later named to the Area I NAJYRC CH-J* team. Their individual third place finish overall helped Area I to clinch the team gold medal.

“Young Riders has been my big goal since I started high school and decided I really wanted to continue with eventing,” said Cornelia. “It was amazing and I was so proud of everyone!”

“It’s cool to be a part of something larger than yourself like being on a team. Also to be able to pack and plan for something like that — where we had to travel all the way out to Colorado — was a great experience in and of itself.”

Now having graduated high school, Cornelia is taking a gap year to work for Sharon full-time and plans to attend Gettysburg College in the fall.

“I dedicated this year to finding out if I wanted to pursue a career as a professional rider and I’m pretty certain at this point that I want to make this my life and be a successful event rider with a string of upper-level horses and people supporting me.”

Cornelia’s second mount is Louis M, a 12-year-old Rheinlander gelding previously ridden through the CIC3* level by Pia Münker of Germany, and imported last summer to help Cornelia develop as a competitor and take her to the next level.

As thrilling as Cornelia’s 2016 spring and summer was, the fall proved no less exciting or rewarding. In her first competition on Louis, the pair took the top spot at the GMHA Festival of Eventing August Horse Trials in the JYOP division and they finished out the season with two other wins at Preliminary, a 13th place finish in the CIC1* at Plantation field, and finally a win in the CCI1* at The Virginia Horse Trials in October.

Additionally, Cornelia moved up to Intermediate with Hugo finishing as the top placed Young Rider in the Open Intermediate divisions at both the Maryland Horse Trials and then the Virginia Horse Trials in October.

Both Hugo and Louis have traveled down to Ocala with Cornelia ahead of this week’s Eventing 25 training camp. Cornelia will ride Louis in the sessions with Eventing Emerging Athlete Coach Leslie Law and then stay an additional week taking lessons from Leslie while riding Hugo.

Cornelia Dorr and Louis M. Photo by Brant Gamma Photography.

Cornelia Dorr and Louis M. Photo by Brant Gamma Photography.

Since Louis is still a fairly new ride for Cornelia, she’s hoping that their time in the developing athlete training camp will help to improve their connection.

“Louis is more trained than me, so he’s teaching me a lot,” she said. “He has a very specific canter that he works best out of and right now I can’t always find that, so I’m especially hoping that during the training camp I’ll continue to work on finding the canter that I need on him.”

“I’m also looking forward to making connections with all the other young riders who will be there and who are planning to be in the sport for a while. In Young Riders I made a lot of friendships that I think I’ll carry for the rest of my life, so I’m looking forward to meeting more new people.”

Having achieved her goal of making her Area’s NAJYRC team and successfully competing, Cornelia is now making a new set of goals and looking to the future. She is looking to take Louis Intermediate under Sharon’s guidance once she makes it down to Florida as well, and the plan is to do a CIC2* with both Hugo and Louis in the early spring to prepare for the Jersey Fresh CCI2* later in the season. Cornelia is hoping to return to NAJYRC again this year, this time as a CCI2* competitor and ideally she’d finish out the season with both horses in the CCI2* at Fair Hill International.

With the upper-levels solidly in mind for the future, she’s eager to absorb as much as possible during the Eventing 25 camp, throughout the rest of her gap year, and beyond.

“I’m looking forward to the learning curve during the training session because I’m the most inexperienced of the bunch,” Cornelia said. “I hope I’m going to come out of the program having learned a lot in the four days.”

“So far I have been lucky to have the support of my parents for helping me follow this dream, and Babette for raising me as a rider and horsewoman, and Sharon for continuing my education. They’ve all helped get me to where I am today.”

Go Cornelia! Go Eventing!

Area I Virtual Team Challenge Promotes Community and Volunteering

Area I ARP member and VTC participant Kate Rakowski at Groton House Farm HT 2016. Photo by Abby Powell. Area I ARP member and VTC participant Kate Rakowski at Groton House Farm HT 2016. Photo by Abby Powell.

This past season, members of Area I’s Adult Riders Program (ARP) enjoyed a new way to get competitive and stay active in the eventing community regardless of whether they actually rode in an event. It all started when Suzanne Adams, Area I’s ARP Coordinator, organized the inaugural Virtual Team Challenge (VTC).

The Virtual Team Challenge allowed ARP members to earn points for their team by entering, placing and volunteering at USEA sanctioned horse trials. Non-competing ARP members who were active volunteers became just as much of an asset to their teams as members who placed at the top of the leaderboard at an event.

Suzanne got the idea for the VTC from other USEA Areas, including IV and VI, both of which have hosted similar competitions in the past. Her main goal was to find a way to include all ARP members regardless of how often they competed or even if they competed at all.

VTC participant Beth Libby volunteers at Millbrook. Photo courtesy of Beth Libby.

VTC participant Beth Libby volunteers at Millbrook. Photo courtesy of Beth Libby.

“The VTC program was added because we had active ARP members who, at some point during the year, had to stop competing. I kept kicking ideas around to all who would listen. How do you have a program that included everyone: riders, folks who weren’t competing for whatever reason and parents of Young Riders who wanted ways to be involved?” Suzanne said.

“I loved the idea of a virtual competition and wanted to expand it to involve non-rider competitors, which added the whole concept of volunteerism.”

Participants were randomly split into teams of seven prior to the first Area I event of the season, and Suzanne introduced the teams to each other via email and laid out the rules. Entering and completing an event secured 20 points for a team and placing in a division added between five and 40 additional points from eighth through first place, respectively.

A maximum amount of 60 points for first place could be earned through competing. Similarly, volunteering for a half day earned 30 points, while a full day earned 60 points. Competing in an event outside of Area I earned half the point value of an event within the area.

VTC participants who volunteered posted selfies to the Facebook group in order to earn points for their teams. Photo courtesy of Paula Colt.

VTC participants who volunteered posted selfies to the Facebook group in order to earn points for their teams. Photo courtesy of Paula Colt.

“The points were designed to treat a day of volunteering equally with winning first place,” Suzanne said. “I saw VTCers whose horses were out for the season step up and really push themselves for those volunteer points.”

One such participant was Jennifer Bagley, a member of the winning team, who had to retire her mare from eventing last year. Jennifer has been a USEA member for two decades and was glad to be able to have a way to still participate in her sport even while currently being sidelined from competing.

“It really helped me stay connected to the sport and feel like I was contributing to a team during a season when I wasn’t able to show,” Jennifer said.

At the beginning of the season, Suzanne set up a private Facebook group for participants that she used to announce which teams had members competing or volunteering prior to every event. After each event she posted the results and the current standings. The Facebook group turned out to be an amazing tool for keeping the participants engaged throughout the entirety of the season.

“Teams cheered each other on, posted pictures and video, and even trash-talked in good humor,” Suzanne said. “Each time a list of competitors and proposed volunteers was posted for each event, some folks actually arranged to meet up with each other.”

VTC participants posted fun pictures and stayed engaged throughout the competition via the Facebook group. Photo courtesy of Amy Wolfe.

VTC participants posted fun pictures and stayed engaged throughout the competition via the Facebook group. Photo courtesy of Amy Wolfe.

“Suzanne did a fantastic job with the scoring system and keeping tabs on what everyone was doing,” Jennifer said. “It was always fun to see who was competing and volunteering each weekend and to see results afterward. We all cheered each other on and commiserated with those who had a tough show. It created a really fun and supportive community with some sassy talk and a lot of laughs!”

The mutual support, sense of community and good-natured heckling within the VTC generated an extra layer of fun and friendship throughout the season. Top placing teams will be receiving prizes at the upcoming Area I Annual Meeting in January, as well as some additional ribbons to add to their collection accumulated throughout the season.

“It was the proverbial horse race to the finish,” Suzanne said, “and it was such a rich year of building community, friendly rivalry and promoting volunteerism amongst teams.”

Equine Management Training Center Graduates Shine in New Careers

Sam Burton Henley, Claudia Sadler, Rachel Petty and Suzanne Lacy. Photo courtesy of Sam Burton Henley. Sam Burton Henley, Claudia Sadler, Rachel Petty and Suzanne Lacy. Photo courtesy of Sam Burton Henley.

Earlier this year, the Equine Management Training Center (EMTC) announced the creation of a certification program for professional grooms in the U.S. The first session of the Professional Groom Certificate Program wrapped up in September with two newly minted graduates, Claudia Sadler and Rachel Petty, who are now happily employed in their chosen careers.

The EMTC aims to raise the standard of grooms and facility managers by providing a structured curriculum that covers all aspects of farm and stable management and care specific to competition horses. The eight-week program consists of six weeks of classroom and hands-on practical instruction followed by a two-week internship after which graduates are guaranteed job placement.

With the quality and comprehensiveness of the instruction, it’s unsurprising that top-level riders, trainers and programs are lining up to hire EMTC graduates.

Sam Burton Henley, EMTC program administrator, has imparted wisdom upon the next generation of riders and grooms for more than 10 years as she has worked as a trainer and facility manager at Suzanne Lacy’s Sandy River Equestrian Center (SREC), where EMTC is based.

Prior to working at the Axton, Virginia facility, Sam was the competition manager and head groom for the O’Connor Event Team, so it’s not surprising that the real-world experience and knowledge she, Suzanne and other instructors share with the students produces highly competent and qualified individuals.

Faith Davis and Rachel Petty. Photo courtesy of Sam Burton Henley.

Faith Davis and Rachel Petty. Photo courtesy of Sam Burton Henley.

Having now graduated the first participants, Sam is reflecting on the first session and looking ahead to the future sessions. “The condensed format, which consisted of six weeks at our farm followed by a two-week internship, was very intense but doable,” Sam said. “We realized that we needed more time than originally allowed for some of the topics, so we adjusted the schedules accordingly.”

Claudia and Rachel had class five days a week, homework and testing on the sixth day, and one day off. “This seemed like an excellent schedule, as we could make sure they were absorbing everything as we went. Both of our graduates seemed very happy with the program and absolutely blew us away with how quickly they picked everything up. We are very hopeful for the continued development and success of this program,” Sam said.

“The highlight for our first session was putting the girls with riders at the American Eventing Championships. Claudia Sadler worked with Lauren Kieffer, Rachel Petty worked with Jennie Brannigan, and they both worked with Ryan Wood. All of the riders were extremely complimentary of both girls.”

Rachel Petty assists Ryan Wood with Woodstock Bennet at the AECs. Photo courtesy of Sam Burton Henley.

Rachel Petty assists Ryan Wood with Woodstock Bennet at the AECs. Photo courtesy of Sam Burton Henley.

While EMTC’s Professional Groom Certificate Program has just graduated the first two official participants, SREC has long been training top grooms. Several students who came through SREC first as lesson program participants, then as working students and later as staff, have benefitted from Sam’s wealth of experience and knowledge as they later progressed to head groom or facility manager positions of their own in premier programs around the country.

Courtney Carson came through SREC while attending nearby Hollins College and stayed on to work at the facility after graduating. After gaining valuable experience at EMTC, Courtney moved on to groom for Doug Payne. “Thanks to the great foundation and training Courtney received at SREC she was able to step right into the program at DPE without missing a beat,” Doug said. “Her experience with both top level and young horses has made her an invaluable asset to our team.”

Trae Meder is another such SREC graduate, and he now works for show jumper Matthias Hollberg. “Trae came to us with a solid foundation of knowledge and was eager to learn about the show world,” Matthias said. “With an excellent work attitude and great feel for horses, he has become a valuable member of our team.”

Sue Clark, Manager of Stonehall Farm, sings the praises of EMTC and SREC students, including current employee and SREC alumni Katherine Lester. “When people want to enter into the horse world as a professional career, there are many considerations that go into hiring the ‘right’ person. One thing that has certainly made the hiring process easier for us is the EMTC,” Sue said.

“I would highly recommend this program to anyone that was seriously thinking about entering the professional horse world. With this background behind you, you will enter the industry with confidence!”

Sarah Zimmer with Arthur at the AECs. Photo courtesy of Sam Burton Henley.

Sarah Zimmer with Arthur at the AECs. Photo courtesy of Sam Burton Henley.

Another happy employer is Allison Springer. “When I was in need of a new head groom, my first call was to Sam Burton at the EMTC. I know Sam personally and professionally, and I had full confidence she would steer me in the right direction filling the most important position on my staff,” Allison said.

“Sam connected me with Sarah Zimmer, who has been my head groom since May of 2015. Sarah has proven to be an invaluable part of my team; her dedication and kindness has been a blessing to my program.”

It was the success of these SREC alumni — Courtney, Trae, Katherine and Sarah — that inspired the creation of the EMTC Professional Groom Certificate Program. Now the most recent graduates are following in their footsteps as successful professionals. Rachel Petty is now employed by show jumpers Faith and Tammy Davis, and Claudia Sadler is grooming for Hannah Sue Burnett.

“I’ve been very impressed with the skills and horsemanship that Claudia came to work for me with after being in the EMTC for just a short amount of time,” Hannah said. “Her positive attitude and great way with the horses makes her a valuable member of my team. I’m excited to see more qualified grooms come out of this great program!”

Claudia Sadler and Hannah Sue Burnett. Photo courtesy of Hannah Sue Burnett.

Claudia Sadler and Hannah Sue Burnett. Photo courtesy of Hannah Sue Burnett.

EMTC has four sessions of the Professional Groom Training Certificate program scheduled for 2017, with the first one beginning Feb. 6. Employment is guaranteed upon completion of the program, and scholarships are available. In addition to the groom program, a two-day Winter Event Workshop, called “Preparing for Your Spring Season,” led by Sam has been generating a lot of interest and will take place in January.

Anyone interested in either the Winter Event Workshop or the Professional Groom Training Certificate program can check out the EMTC webpage for more information and applications.

Canadian Olympian Colleen Loach Forging Her Own Path

Colleen Loach and Qorry Blue d'Argouges. Photo by Jenni Autry. Colleen Loach and Qorry Blue d'Argouges. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Colleen Loach has had a whirlwind year. In 2015 the Dunham, Quebec native made her first Canadian national team appearance as a member of the bronze-medal winning 2015 Pan American Games team in Toronto. Thirteen months later, Colleen and her mount, Qorry Blue d’Argouges, a Thoroughbred/Selle Francais gelding owned by Peter Barry, represented Canada at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Having now represented her nation twice and completed one of the most difficult cross country courses in modern Olympic history, Colleen is ready for her next big challenge: building a client base and starting her own business.

Colleen has spent the past 13 years working for Peter Barry, who, among other laurels, rode for Canada in the London 2012 Olympic Games. Originally hired as a groom, Colleen’s role quickly expanded beyond that. “Peter got a little more than he bargained for in hiring me, since I ended up being a rider as well,” she said. “He really supported me as rider, and I’m very appreciative of that.”

Colleen reprised her role as a groom for Peter and Kilrodan Abbott at the 2012 Olympic Games, which gave her a unique look behind the scenes prior to making her own Olympic debut in Rio four years later.

Colleen Loach and Qorry Blue d'Argouges. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Colleen Loach and Qorry Blue d’Argouges in Rio. Photo by Shannon Brinkman.

Being selected to the Canadian team and riding in the Rio Olympics “was a really amazing experience,” Colleen says. Unfortunately, her Olympic weekend didn’t get the strong start she hoped for when booming feedback from speakers filled the stadium during her dressage test, spooking Qorry and rattling Colleen. They managed to regain their composure and finished the test with poise, but not without a few unavoidable and costly low marks to score 56.6.

With a Pierre Michelet cross country course that many riders deemed the toughest they had ever seen at the Olympic Games, Saturday was understandably a little nerve-racking.

“I definitely have some regrets about the mistakes we made on cross country,” Colleen said. “I got a bit nervous and rushed my warm-up and we had some runouts, which never happens. Once we got on course we still weren’t fully tuned-in to each other yet, and we made two costly mistakes early on, but after that the rest of the course was foot-perfect.”

Colleen and Qorry finished strong on Sunday, jumping inside the time with just one rail down to complete their Olympic debut.

Colleen Loach and Qorry Blue D'Argouges. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Colleen Loach and Qorry Blue D’Argouges after show jumping in Rio. Photo by Jenni Autry.

After the Olympics, Colleen set out to turn over a new leaf. For the past two months, she has been working for Clayton Fredericks, former Canadian Olympic team coach, at his farm in Anthony, Florida. As an assistant trainer for Fredericks Equestrian International, Colleen has been sharing the riding, training and teaching duties in addition to gaining additional competition mileage on some of Clayton’s horses.

“It’s been a great learning experience,” she said. This past weekend she and Clayton’s FE Subiaco finished within the top 20 in the hotly contested CCI*, which had more than 70 horses, at the inaugural Ocala Jockey Club International Three-Day Event.

Colleen is now ready take the next step in establishing herself as a professional rider and trainer and is looking to build her own clientele who want to join her in her effort to stay at the top levels of the sport.

“I think what’s going to be really important for me is to get owners behind me so I can develop a string of horses,” she said. “I think I have the work ethic and talent to make it, but it’s tough getting started, and riders need a big base of support.”

Colleen, who has years of experience working with young horses, is willing to take on horses in any stage of training, from promising youngsters who need to learn the basics to more seasoned competitors who need a rider to take them to the next level. She will continue to base herself out of Clayton’s facility, located just north of Ocala.

“It’s great here at Clayton’s to have so many top quality, well-bred competition horses to ride,” Colleen said. “It’s a great resource.”

Colleen Loach and Quorry Blue d'Argouges. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Colleen Loach and Quorry Blue d’Argouges at the Great Meadow CICO3* in July. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Colleen is also currently trying to keep the ride on Qorry, who was recently listed for sale. Over the past few months, Colleen has been looking to form a syndicate for the 12-year-old gelding and would like to retain a piece of the ownership as well and continue to contest top events together.

“If I manage to keep him I’d like to do Rolex in the spring. I think Qorry would have a good chance to do well there,” Colleen said. “Then we would probably so some CICs in the fall followed by another four-star the next spring.”

To learn more about Colleen and inquire about this syndication opportunity, visit her website at or contact her at [email protected].

An Eventer’s Guide to #GivingTuesday

Photo by Abby Powell. Photo by Abby Powell.

So how did you fare this Thanksgiving weekend? No, I’m not asking if you regret eating enough mashed potatoes to fill a skull cap (I don’t) … I’m asking how your wallet is feeling after a weekend of in-your-face sale ads. Because if there’s one thing horse people love as much as horses, it’s stuff for our horses.

There’s no denying that there were some pretty fantastic deals out there this weekend, and considering horse stuff is so expensive in the first place, it’s hard not to heed the call of those Black Friday and Cyber Monday doorbusters. While there’s no shame in taking advantage of the most wonderful time of the year for shopping, I find today, Giving Tuesday, to be a breath of fresh air after a weekend of intense consumerism.

While there are many worthy causes around the globe, I’d like to take a moment to address the very specific group of people reading this article — horse people — and point out a few ways that we can make a difference in our small niche of the world or your local community. As we head into this season of giving, let’s take a moment to think about what it’s important to us as eventers and horse lovers and how we can use #GivingTuesday to help ensure that our passion is preserved to share and enjoy for years to come.

Land Preservation Organizations

Aside from the horses themselves, is there anything more essential to equestrian sports, and eventing in particular, than open land? Land preservation is essential for the wellbeing and nature of the animals we work with and it is particularly essential to our sport of eventing. Without land, there can be no cross-country as we know it!

Your Local Combined Training Association

From the grassroots on up, local combined training organizations are the bread and butter of our sport. Local CTAs supplement the bigger USEA events, the core of eventing in the United States, and they play a very important role in keeping eventing more accessible to a greater number of people.

Clients of Windrush Farm in Boxford, MA showcase their skills during a demonstration at the 2016 Groton House Farm HT. Photo by Abby Powell.

Clients of Windrush Farm in Boxford, MA showcase their skills during a demonstration at the 2016 Groton House Farm H.T. Photo by Abby Powell.

Therapeutic Riding Programs

Programs that offer therapeutic riding and driving or hippotherapy are often in need of donations. Although equine-assisted therapy can provide real benefit to people with mental or physical disabilities, it is not often covered by health insurance and the programs are understandably expensive to run (they do involve horses after all). Some stables additionally offer programs for able-bodied participants of various demographics such as veterans or at-risk inner-city youth, which are a great way to introduce many different people to the benefits of working with and being around horses.

USEA Research Studies

If you’re looking for a way to more directly impact the future of eventing specifically, look no further than the studies and programs organized by the USEA Foundation. The two ongoing studies, the Equine Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Research Study and the Collapsible Fence Technology Research Study, both have the power improve the safety of eventing and impact horse and rider welfare for the better, while the Instructor Certification Program and the Officials Training program help to secure eventing’s future.

Equine Rescues

From auction-bound horses to Mustangs to OTTBs, there are a plethora of equine rescue organizations out there both locally and nationally. Each one could potentially match some lucky rider with their perfect steed. While, sure, a well-bred young event horse destined for the upper-levels may have a leg up on the competition, one of the things that I love about eventing is that it’s possible for any horse to do well at it if they have enough heart. Heart is an abundant commodity amongst rescue horses; sometimes you just have to put a little polish on a diamond in the rough.

My own pony is one such diamond in the rough. Photos courtesy of the MSPCA and Dan Powell.

My own pony is one such diamond in the rough. Photos courtesy of the MSPCA and Dan Powell.

Veterinary Aid Organizations

We are exceptionally fortunate to be able to participate in this sport that we love. While we generally enjoy horses on a recreational level, many other people around the globe rely on equines for their livelihood. Veterinary care for working equines and basic veterinary or husbandry education for the people that use them, not only help the hard-working animals across the globe, but the people that depend on them as well.


While the goal of #GivingTuesday is generally to secure monetary donation for organizations, there are other ways to give than just financially. If you’d prefer not to make a monetary donation this season, consider pledging your time instead. We’re all aware of the shortage of volunteers in eventing — use this time to reach out to any of your local organizations get your name on their email list; they’ll be happy to have you.

Go Eventing. Go Giving.

10 Questions with Laine Ashker Presented by MOJO

Laine Ashker and Anthony Patch. Photo by Jenni Autry. Laine Ashker and Anthony Patch. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Laine Ashker and Anthony Patch have been a mainstay at the Advanced level in the U.S. since 2008, completing major events like Rolex Kentucky and Burghley much to the delight of their massive fan base. Her 2016 season unfortunately came to an early end when she suffered a broken humerus, torn deltoid bicep and torn rotator cuff in a fall after a client’s horse stumbled, but she’s on the mend and in good spirits.

We caught up with Laine to learn what she’s been up to during her recovery (including a very exciting business venture!) and her plans for next year, as well as an update on her mother Valerie’s cross-country trek on horseback, thoughts on social media and even some trot-up fashion advice.

EN: How are you feeling and how is the healing going?

Laine: “I’m doing lovely. I just got my third post-surgery checkup and I’m out of the sling. I’ve broken a lot of bones in this sport, but until now I had never realized exactly how big the humerus is! I have two metal plates and 20 screws keeping it together in there.

“This is actually the first week my shoulder hasn’t felt like it’s just jiggling around as I’m walking. I can’t even do much exercising which is a huge bummer, so the MyFitnessPal app has been my best friend. I’ve been using it to try and stay on some sort of a diet so that I don’t go overboard while I can’t be as active.

“I’m planning on being back in the tack and in work in December if all goes well. The next checkup with my orthopedist is early next month, so gotta keep the bone growing until then. I’ll either get the ‘all clear’ at that point or not, which would be a bummer, but I’m so fortunate to have an amazing team of girls — and one boy — working for me who are doing an amazing job taking care of the farm, so if I need to take another two weeks off I can.

“Of course I’m really eager to get back in the saddle, but I have to be smart about it because this is the type of injury where, if I get back on a horse too early and fall off before the bone is fully healed, it would be majorly damaging and would jeopardize my whole riding career. So compared to that, what’s another two weeks?”

EN: What have you been doing to keep busy during your down time?

Laine: “It’s been sort of a little bit boring, but luckily I’ve started Snapchatting and that’s been a life-changing app for me, because of course it has selfies and filters. But really I’ve just kept busy with being around the barn in a bit of a different management role than I’m used to. I’ve been spending a lot of time with my students coming up with fun things to do to help them learn, but also to get a little competition going. We set up a gambler’s choice jumping exercise the other day.

“I’ve also got a pretty exciting business venture called ‘iQuestrian’ that’s taking shape that I put feelers out for earlier this year. I’ve been able to utilize a lot of this downtime to work on that. I definitely won’t call this injury a blessing in disguise, but at least I have been able to focus on this project a little more than I otherwise would have. I’ve been learning to work smarter, not harder.

“iQuestrian is an app/website that I’m developing and essentially it’s a way for people in parts of the country without a lot of four-star riders to get in touch with me and other instructors and get some training that way. My #GOTDs (Grid of the Day) and #DEOTDs (Dressage Exercise of the Day) on Instagram have been so popular that I’ve wanted to expand on that idea and go bigger.

“It will have a library of instructional videos all the way from Starter level through Advanced with everything from gridwork and lateral exercises to creating the perfect quartermark and picking a jog outfit. There’s going to be a lot going on and I’m really excited about it. There will be a range of free and premium services, including the ability to shoot a video of yourself, send it in, and get a lesson from me or another top instructor that I’m hoping to bring in.

“The biggest thing I see when I travel around the country doing clinics is that people want to be part of a big trainer’s program, but they don’t live in the right area and they can’t travel or they don’t have the money. iQuestrian would make quality instruction more accessible to everyone, and I want it to be a source for people. Right now we’re still in the fundraising stage with sponsors, but I’m hoping to be able to roll it out next year.”

EN: How do you manage to stay so active on it while riding, competing and running a business?

Laine: “It’s so easy! I had the luxury of going to college and being introduced to Facebook there and using it to check in with friends, so I got the social media vibe from college life. Once you understand how easy it is to do, it just becomes part of your day-to-day.

“For the grids and dressage exercises, it takes me about 15 minutes to do those because I’ll trim the video, add audio and write out a caption, but I’m willing to take that time out of my day because it’s important to me and it’s important to my followers.

“I really enjoy commenting back to people. I put myself in their shoes and I think that if they took the time to write to me then I should do the same for them. I really do enjoy engaging with people, and I think it’ll be a very sad day when people stop commenting because that means then that they’ve stopped caring.”

Laine Ashker and Anthony Patch. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Laine Ashker and Anthony Patch. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

EN: How is social media important to a professional equestrian? Any tips for other riders?

Laine: “Social media is hugely underutilized by riders. We riders are a business, but the world of equestrian sports is still so backwards in its elitist mindset, thinking that we’re just entitled to ride. In reality we need sponsors and companies to allow us to ride full-time, and we have to do our part to represent those companies and get their name out there. Social media is a powerful way to do that, but it’s taken a lot of time to catch on and is slowly gaining momentum.

“I have spent a lot of time analyzing what kind of posts get good reach and which don’t; I think I have business school to thank for that. I’ve found that people like motivational posts such as #motivationmonday, but they don’t like selfies. I like to use Twitter for checking results because it’s so quick and instant; it’s so easy, anyone can do it. And Instagram is amazing because you can link it to all your other social media accounts. One click and the post goes up on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Swarm — you name it! It literally takes me a minute to do.

“I get that there are some people that don’t want their life to be public, and that’s OK, but the great thing about it is that you can let people in as much or as little as you want to and you can pick or choose what helps you build your brand.

“I think it’s really easy to lose our perspective of reality in this sport. I like to go out and talk to people and and talk about things other than horses and riding, and have different experiences outside of horses. I find it to be a bit therapeutic for me, putting myself out there and working through some of my problems publicly. It helps with knowing you’re not alone. I think that’s what helps people like myself be a little more relatable. It show that you don’t have to be a superstar who wins everything to be a role model.”

Laine Ashker and Anthony Patch at Burghley 2015. Photo by Nico Morgan.

Laine Ashker and Anthony Patch at Burghley 2015. Photo by Nico Morgan Photography.

EN: A lot of young riders look up to you as a role model on social media. What advice do you give your followers about becoming a better rider?

Laine: “I do pride myself on being a role model and, I always have to remind myself whenever I post that as I have a responsibility as such. Proper role models have to show people that they’re not without mistakes and that they’re flawed. If you only post your successes — your perfect halts and your 10s — then that’s not reality. It’s important to see that sometimes that person falls, but then that they got back up and they learned from it. That’s what I really want to show my followers.

“The biggest thing I tell my young riders is to persevere. I tell people that if they give up too soon — whether it’s getting off the horse and quitting for the day, or having a refusal at a jump and giving up on getting the horse over it — that you don’t have to fight and prolong it, but you have to find a different way to get it done and maybe speak a different language to the horse.

“The same goes for if you’re short on money. There are still means to following your dreams and achieving them. I am walking, living proof that these things can happen: that you can go to college and take a full load of classes and still do four-stars, that you can take horses off the track and be successful with them. You don’t need to have someone go to Europe and import a horse for you. I mean, would I love that? Heck yeah! But it’s not realistic for everyone, so I take OTTBs and retrain them instead.

“‘Keep your eye on the prize’ is one of my biggest mottos. It’s a saying that’s really resonated with me and helped get me where I am today, and I haven’t even gotten to do an eighth of what I’ve wanted to do yet. It’s something that I tell my students. I’ve texted it to my mom along her journey, and I’ve had to say it to myself again just a couple weeks ago after my accident. You have to persevere when something’s not going right and find a different means to that end. We all have those peaks and valleys; we just have to persevere through them.”

EN: Right now your mom is persevering through her ride across the country, and she’s almost done! As a daughter, what has it been like for you watching her go on this journey?

Laine: “There’s such a mix of feelings. There was a point before I got hurt where she didn’t have a driver for the trailer, and it was tough and I practically wanted to stop my show season early to be there for her. Of course now my show season ended early anyway! I never had one iota of doubt that she’d finish this journey, though.

“I can’t even describe the amount of pride I have for her. My success has been because my mom never babied me and never put me on any made horses. She made me understand how to create a diamond out of someone else’s trash. This has been something she has wanted to do for a long time. She’s already crossed the country several times with me in the car and also on her own on her motorcycle, so it was only a matter of time until she did it on horseback.

“I can’t tell you the amount of relief I’ll have too when she’s done, but also just such a sense of pride and gratitude towards those horses for letting her do this. Those two horses, Primitivo and Solar Express, never swapped out. Those horses have walked every step of the way from California to Virginia. They never got driven on the trailer. In fact, I think they’ve probably gone an extra 20 miles just from getting loose!

“She has met so many amazing people along the way that have touched her life. It’s really come full circle because the OTTBs have given me so much: my first Rolex press conference and my first Burghley, just to name a few. Now they’re giving back to my mom to fill a void in her life and she’s giving back to them. She’s showing people what incredible creatures they are.

“I think they get a bad rap because people always talk about ‘crazy Thoroughbreds,’ but every horse given the right chance can be someone’s Sylvester or Black Beauty — their dream horse. It’s just a matter of how their second life is presented to them; that doesn’t include forcing it on them, but it doesn’t mean letting them walk all over you either. There’s a happy medium.

“Working with these horses is her calling, and she’s found it. She has really found her niche in this off-the-track Thoroughbred movement. She’s so talented at not only finding them, but starting them and showing them a whole new avenue and gaining their trust. Her face just lights up when she talks about them.

“I hope that as many people as possible can come the the welcome party that we’re throwing her when she arrives and finishes her journey on Nov. 19 at the Middleburg Training Center in Virginia. I want it to be a huge part,y and I also want people to come see how amazing these horses look, because they look absolutely incredible!”

Valerie and Laine — Thoroughbred ambassadors!

Valerie and Laine — Thoroughbred ambassadors! Photo courtesy of Laine Ashker.

EN: Now that 2016 is coming to a close and you’re mending up, what does the next year look like for you and your own Thoroughbreds?

Laine: “Anthony Patch (Al) was supposed to be coming back into work by now, but that hasn’t happened since I got injured. All my other event horses have been on vacation too; we pulled their shoes and turned them out! So we’ll all be coming back into work together once I can ride again. We’ll be heading down to Florida in January, and I’d like to do our first show back hopefully at the end of that month. Pending the weather, I’d like to be back to jumping before we head south, focusing on my position and the horses’ form and getting my eye and distances tuned up.

“Al owes me nothing, so we’ll see what he wants to do. If I could get one or two more competitive years out of him I’d be thrilled, but if he tells me tomorrow that he wants to be retired then that’s fine. He’s a dude. I love him and he keeps me motivated every day. I’ve got a bone to pick with Rolex though, and I’d love to springboard off our amazing result from last year.

“As for going overseas, it’s a big risk, but if he’s sound we’d do it. It’s a matter of what he wants to do. It really depends on how he comes out of Rolex because that tells me a lot about how he’ll keep recovering over the summer. We ran cross country towards the end last year, and that wasn’t great because the footing got so dug up and tough; it took him longer to recoup after.

“Skipping Burghley last year was a good decision because of that, but I would love to go again if we can. The first time around I was convincing myself that we would do it as we went. Now I know we can. God bless Al for putting up with me and making the thousands of mistakes that I did. Now I’m finally able to live up to him.

“Spartan (Flagmount’s Spartan) and Comet (Calling All Comets) are my two-star horses. Both of their seasons got cut short unfortunately because of my injury. Comet is an all-American, homebred thoroughbred and he’s very special. He did his first two-star at Carolina earlier this year and finished on his dressage score. He’s going to be the horse of the future, and I’m very excited about him.

“Spartan, who’s owned by Tera Call and myself, is a year older than Comet and he’s three-quarters thoroughbred, one-quarter Irish. He’s a dude. I got him from Grand Prix jumper Aaron Vale who just had him in a pasture and hadn’t shown him. He’s only been competing for three years now and is already at the two-star level. He’s a Burghley horse through and through. He’s very cheeky.

“Both Comet and Spartan are going to stay at the two-star level this year and won’t move up. They’re both further along with their jumping and need to catch up with their flatwork, and I think the two-star level is the time to do that; it’s a hard enough jumping level to keep them interested, but there are enough flatwork basics that need to be worked on.

“I was talking to Boyd Martin at a recent show and he was telling me about a study that showed that horses that stayed at the two-star level for a longer period of time went on to have longer careers than those that moved up to three-star sooner. Both Comet and Spartan are still young, so there’s no rush.

“Patrick (Call Him Paddy) is an OTTB that my mom found through the Retired Racehorse Project. He’s 15.3 hands of cockiness, heart, guts and talent. He really reminds me of my Al; he’s an incredible horse. He walks around the barn like he just won a six-star — we have to make up levels for him, he’s that cocky! He just has an ‘I’ve got this’ attitude. He’s going Prelim right now and hopefully we’ll do a one-star in the spring. Maybe we’ll do a two-star later in the year, but he’ll just be turning 7 next year, so we’re not in any hurry.”

EN: In addition to eventing, you’ve also been competing in pure dressage. What do enjoy about it?

Laine: “I have two pure dressage horses, both owned by good friend Ann Wilson. I’m so lucky to have an owner like her. Diego (Santiago del Escarvido) is an Andalusian/Appaloosa and we’ll be doing Intermediare I and II next year and maybe even Grand Prix in the fall, and Tommy (Phantom In The Knight) is an Andalusian/Arabian and we’re at Second Level.

“Competing in pure dressage is so awesome and humbling. Dressage never ceases to humble me and make me feel like a little kid again. Earlier this year I just learned to do a couple steps of piaffe and I just had the biggest grin on my face; I felt like a little kid who had just learned to canter.

“I would love to develop a string of dressage horses as well. I’m learning a ton, and it helps me so much in my eventing dressage. I’ve been working with dressage trainer Radu Marcoci who has ridden at the Spanish Riding School and at the Seoul Olympics, and he’s been riding and lunging Diego and Tommy while I’m healing which has been super.

“I’ve been learning so much being in the dressage world. It’s like I’m a Beginner Novice rider watching Phillip Dutton out on cross country. Everything I’m learning I get to share it all with my students, so it’s like the gift that keeps on giving.”

Laine Ashker and Anthony Patch. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Laine Ashker and Anthony Patch. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

EN: You’re quite the fashionista on the jog strip. What do you look for in the perfect trot-up outfit?

Laine: “I have a formula for trot-ups with big publicity. For Wednesday jogs, I like to go with some sort of dress. I want it knee length or below, but not too long because you don’t want to be tripping over yourself.

“On Sunday for the second jog, I like some sort of pantsuit. You want to stay away from dresses on Sunday in case you need to ride your horse that morning before the jog to loosen them up; you don’t want to have to do a full wardrobe change. On Wednesday, you can pay more attention to yourself because you have more time to get ready and you’re not dealing with a sore horse that day, so that’s the day to go all out.

“Otherwise, you just have to go with your own style. For me, I love to go with a classic look, but then give it a little edge. I don’t want to be boring. I like to go light with eye makeup, but add a pop of lip color. You want to steer away from going too heavy on the eye makeup and end up looking like you’re going to the club. If you need a statement, do lip color. I like to keep it seasonal too — a light pink for spring, and a deeper plum for fall.

“I know a lot of people don’t care, but the trot-ups are the one time in our sport where we can really express our personalities. Yeah, we can bring a little bling into dressage, but we still have to keep it really understated and uniform. The jogs are the part where we get to be different, and I love seeing how different people choose to look and how confident it makes them.

“I for one loved Chris Talley’s outfit at Fair Hill; he looked like a total Ken doll. He pulled off those leather pants better than most women could have and his hair was also on fleek. That’s a big thing for me too. Don’t just pay attention to your outfit; pay attention to your hair also. Don’t just let it go and look disheveled. There’s really something to be said for just a simple slicked-back ponytail, which is so easy to do. I loved my bun at Rolex, but I have shorter hair now, so I’m going to have to figure out what I’m going to do next.

“And don’t forget to take your horse’s coat color into account. I loved what Tiana Coudray and Becky Holder have done in the past with their grays. I’m excited to get Spartan, who is gray, up to that level and do some really bright fun colors. No offense to my Al here, but he’s a pretty boring color!”

EN: What do you like most about MOJO?

Laine: “I have a MOJO bracelet on right now! I have one that just looks like a normal silver bracelet and it never leaves my wrist. I really love how it helps with balance. I think it really helps me find my center of gravity and helps keep me in the center of my horse. I for sure feel like it’s helping with my shoulder right now too and it’s going to be even more important to me know since there is a significant amount more of weight in my right shoulder now since I have all that hardware in there.

“I think my balance is going to be skewed from that hardware, and I think the MOJO is really going to be helpful for helping me regain my balance again. They don’t just do products for people either. They have the power packs for horses that go on the bridle and dogs for their collars. I think they’re really helpful for getting the horses to acclimate and focus.”

Use promo code GOMOJO for $10 off any MOJO bracelet! Shop at

Gettysburg College Forms Intercollegiate Eventing Team

Noa Leibson riding The Great Gatsby. Photo courtesy of Ella Groner. Noa Leibson riding The Great Gatsby. Photo courtesy of Ella Groner.

Gone are the days when eventing as a young rider and going to college just didn’t mesh. After the USEA’s Intercollegiate Eventing Program became formalized in 2014, numerous colleges and universities have become affiliates and formed teams — 44 to be exact, the newest of which is Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Sophomore Ella Groner has headed up the process of formalizing the Gettysburg College Eventing Team by having the school registered as a USEA University Affiliate and is currently shepherding the team through the school’s approval process to have it recognized as an official club team and be eligible for funding. The eventing team is a part of the larger Gettysburg College Equestrian Team which is active on the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA) circuit and organizes multiple activities and fundraisers for members throughout the year.

The eventing team currently has four members (out of the larger equestrian team pool of around 50 members), but Ella is eager to welcome more at any time from the existing student body or any incoming students who have been accepted and committed to the Class of 2021.

Gettysburg is located just inside the Pennsylvania-Maryland state line making it convenient to a number of different Area II events and professional event riders, giving members plenty of options to choose from as to where to train and compete.

Ella, who competed at NAJYRC in 2015, trains with Lillian Heard out of Bascule Farm in Poolesville, Maryland, about an hour’s drive from the Gettysburg Campus. As a long-time student of Lillian’s, Ella chooses to board her horse “Grafton” at Bascule Farm. Other eventers board their horses at a nearby barn about 10 minutes away from campus and trailer out to lessons with various trainers.

Ella Groner riding Grafton. Photo courtesy of Ella Groner.

Ella Groner and Grafton. Photo courtesy of Ella Groner.

“A lot of the friends I have meet through the Young Rider program have decided to take gap years or just skip out on college in general,” Ella said. “I think that if people realized that it is possible to continue competing at the upper levels throughout school, then they might be more likely to attend college, or those who do attend college and might otherwise stop riding would be encouraged to continue riding and competing throughout college.”

The USEA’s Intercollegiate Eventing Program enables students from USEA Affiliate Universities to compete at Intercollegiate Team Challenges, which are held in conjunction with regular horse trials. Teams of three or four riders at any level compete for the best overall score. The program gives college students an extra reason to stay active in eventing during their academic tenure, and the team competition aspect provides valuable experience in addition to the opportunity to develop unparalleled camaraderie with one’s teammates.

Of course balancing riding with college work isn’t the easiest, but it’s still very possible. “Every college athlete has practice for two to three hours a day, and I just treat riding like that,” said Ella, who is majoring in Organization Management and double-minoring in Business and Environmental Science. “I make sure to block out time in my schedule — which I do week by week — to be certain that I have time to ride.”

“I also think it’s important to just understand that it is OK if you miss a day of riding and it isn’t the end of the world,” Ella added “School is only four years versus the whole rest of your life that you have to ride.”

Brigid Thompson riding Warren. Photo courtesy of Ella Groner.

Brigid Thompson and Warren. Photo courtesy of Ella Groner.

The Virginia Horse Trials will again host the second annual USEA Intercollegiate Championship in May of 2017. USEA officials and college eventers alike are excited by the growth that the intercollegiate program has seen with each passing year and hope that continued growth will help strengthen the sport.

“I think that getting a college education is extremely important even if you have goals and aspirations of being a professional rider. One of the things I hear the most from people is ‘you won’t use your degree as a rider,’ which I don’t think is necessarily true,” Ella said.

“The skills you learn at college are not just the academic skills, but the people skills; how to interact with people, how to manage time properly — things like that come in handy no matter what career path you choose.”

Course Brook Farm and Kent School Close Out Area I’s 2016 Season

Kaitlyn Schultz riding H.B. Mars at Kent School. Photo by Brian Wilcox/ Kaitlyn Schultz riding H.B. Mars at Kent School. Photo by Brian Wilcox/

This past weekend Area I ended the 2016 eventing season with not one but two sanctioned events. The Course Brook Farm Fall Horse Trials in Sherborn, Massachusetts took place on Saturday, Oct. 8, while the Kent School Fall Horse Trials were held on Sunday the 9th in Kent, Connecticut. Both events offered Preliminary/Training through Beginner Novice levels, and Kent School additionally offered an Intro level.

For some riders, the last events of the season are a time to go out with a bang and cap off a successful season. For others, it’s a time for redemption and a chance to finish strong and make a comeback before going back to the grindstone over the winter. Still for a few — including this author — it’s a time to step up to a new level after a season of growth and see what you and your horse can do.

Whatever your reason for riding and your hope for your season-ender, it’s an exhilarating feeling to wake up on a crisp mid-October morning and trailer a cooler-laden horse out to the final chance of the season.

A rider at Course Brook Farm tackles the water complex. Photo courtesy of Kristie Gill.

A rider at Course Brook Farm tackles the water complex. Photo courtesy of Kristie Gill.

Course Brook Farm saw a pleasant if cloudy day and managed to just beat out the incoming rain. Just a few drops fell in the afternoon while the Beginner Novice divisions were running cross country, but competitors otherwise stayed thankfully dry. The event was well attended with just over 120 competitors and the Novice and Beginner Novice divisions were particularly well-contested.

In addition to the regular divisions and TIP awards, Course Brook Farm also has a special Pony Club award which is sponsored by six Course Brook families who are in Pony Club. This year’s winner was Penelope Geisel of the Norfolk Hunt Pony Club.

“This was our 7th year running the event at Course Brook Farm and it just gets better every year,” said Erika Hendricks, who, along with Nici Hornblower, organizes the event every year. “We have a fantastic team of volunteers, including many boarders who spend weeks helping us paint jumps and decorate the property.”

The unofficial 'Most Stylish Volunteer' award goes to dressage steward  Sara Michas! Photo Courtesy of Kristie Gill.

The unofficial ‘Most Stylish Volunteer’ award goes to dressage steward Sara Michas! Photo Courtesy of Kristie Gill.

“None of this would happen without the support of the farm’s owners, the Mayo family. It is their vision and investment in improved footing and expansion of cross country space that will make running a Preliminary division possible in the near future. We couldn’t be more thrilled with how the event went this year.”

The Mayo family have been busy this year with construction at the farm expanding galloping tracks through the woods and adding new jumps. They aim to unveil a full Preliminary track in time for their October 2017 horse trials.

Course Brook Farm ran four schooling horse trials throughout the year in addition to the Fall USEA sanctioned horse trials, plus one more schooling event scheduled for October 30th. A core group of dedicated volunteers provides the foundation for each show. “Course Brook is a very special and supportive boarder community,” said Kristie Gill, secretary for schooling shows.

A few more dedicated Course Brook Farm volunteers. Photo courtesy of Kristie Gill.

A few more dedicated Course Brook Farm volunteers. Photo courtesy of Kristie Gill.

The Kent School Fall Horse Trials the next day was less fortunate in escaping the impending bad weather. 106 riders toughed out a wet, cold, and windy day to finish their season out. In true eventer fashion, however, a little bad weather didn’t get in the way of everyone making the best of things, nor did it dampen the level of excitement piqued by the addition of new fences at each level sponsored by Kent School and Michael and Lizzy Chamberlain.

“The event was such a great success in spite of hurricane Matthew sending us the tail end of his fury in the form of heavy mist and light rain throughout the day,” said event organizer Ray Denis. “The good news is that just as we were wrapping things up, Mr. Sunshine broke through the cloud cover and shinned brightly.”

Josephine Duggan riding Kildare's Buster Keaton at Kent School. Photo by Brian Wilcox/

Josephine Duggan riding Kildare’s Buster Keaton at Kent School. Photo by Brian Wilcox/

“Competitors were judged not only on the merit of their riding ability, but also on their high level of good sport spirit and determination not to be driven off by the weather,” said Ray.

One notable instance of a weather-related problem occurred during Pamela Lyon’s stadium round when a gust of wind blew the jump number right in front of the in-and-out during their approach, causing her horse, “Mars,” to run out. Pamela received the Safe Sport – Good Sport Award which is presented to the participant, rider, groom, trainer, volunteer or spectator that exemplifies good sportsmanship for her grace in handling her unfortunate situation. Well done, Pamela!

Ray Denis, Carol Kozlowski,  Pamela Lyons, and Keith Angstadt. Photo courtesy of Ray Denis.

Ray Denis, Carol Kozlowski, Pamela Lyons, and Keith Angstadt. Photo courtesy of Ray Denis.

Kent School Horse Trials also had some notable officials performing various duties throughout the event. In addition to dressage judges Lori Barnard and Keith Angstadt, as well as jumper judge Beth Stoltz, incoming 2017 USEA President, Carol Kozlowski, served as president of the ground jury.

USEA CEO, Rob Burk, was also in attendance as a volunteer, performing dressage scribe duties as well as clocking cross country start and finish times. “Rob was an awesome guest to have involved,” said Ray.

The Kent School Horse Trials have a strong volunteer base as well. Fence judging was covered by members of the New York Upper Connecticut Region Pony Club, while the Kent School Equestrian Team took care of the dressage and stadium jumping phases.

Rob Burk, Liz Johnson, Carol , and Ray Denis. Photo by Brian Wilcox/

Rob Burk, Liz Johnson, Carol , and Ray Denis. Photo by Brian Wilcox/

Now that the official USEA season is over in Area I, eventers in the region will take a breath and enjoy the remainder of the fall, hacking out amidst the colorful foliage or perhaps enjoying a few more schooling events before hunkering down for winter. Some will look forward to migrating south to jump start their 2017 seasons while more will relegate themselves to dusty indoor arenas.

No matter how the fall and winter will be spent, you can bet Area Iers will be chomping at the bit for April to come and to do it all over again in 2017.

Special thanks to Brian Wilcox of for sharing some great images from Kent School Horse Trials!

Go Eventing.

[Course Brook Farm Fall HT final results] [Kent School Fall HT final results]

University of New Hampshire’s Course Gets By with a Little Help from Friends

Rachel Greene-Lowell and Julie Howard with their silent auction setup at the UNH Fall Horse Trials. Photo by Abby Powell. Rachel Greene-Lowell and Julie Howard with their silent auction setup at the UNH Fall Horse Trials. Photo by Abby Powell.

The University of New Hampshire (UNH) in Durham hosts its fall horse trials every year on the last weekend in September. A windy weekend this year, the Beginner Novice and Training divisions ran on Saturday the 24th, with the Novice and Preliminary divisions on Sunday the 25th.

As competitors enjoyed a beautiful early fall weekend — complete with crisp mornings and just a hint of color starting to appear in the trees — the Friends of UNH Cross Country were focused on preserving the horse trials and ensuring they remain a part of the UNH and Area I’s  legacy for years to come.

The UNH Horse Trials are unique among events, being the only horse trials hosted by a college or university in the United States. Furthermore, they are completely managed and staffed by students of the UNH Equine Studies program under faculty supervision and the help of licensed officials.

The horse trials are an important part of the equine curriculum at this land-grant university — a critical connection to the school’s agricultural heritage as well as a unique experience that introduces students to the inner workings of a horse show.

Photo by Abby Powell

Photo by Abby Powell

This year marked 45 years of hosting a horse trials at the university, making it one of the longest running events in New England. In addition to the fall horse trials, UNH also hosts the first event of the season in Area I in April.

Like many public universities and other institutions, UNH is under omnipresent budgetary pressure. Compound that with the ever-increasing threat of open land development, and one can imagine that the horse trials, the Equine Studies program and other agricultural programs are at high risk of losing their facilities in the name of development and modernization.

Just a few years ago, campus planners eyeballed the agricultural land used by the horticultural, dairy and equine program to potentially lease out for commercial development as a way to make up for financial shortcomings resulting from State of New Hampshire budget cuts to the university. Thankfully, the planners were met with astounding pushback from the public.

Even though the horse trials are a central part of the Equine Studies program, the University contributes no money to the cross country course itself. Entry fees are funneled back into the event budget, in addition to paying for a portion of one faculty member’s salary — also a necessity due to budget cuts. Without funding from the event itself or from the university, the cross country course relies solely on income generated from schooling fees and facility rentals to pay for the course upkeep and design.

Course designer Jim Gornall, a UNH alumnus, has been very generous over the years, often donating his time and waiving his fees to help maintain the course, but the many years of competitions are taking their toll on the fences and the land.

Photo by Abby Powell.

Photo by Abby Powell

Enter Rachel Greene-Lowell, a USEA/ICP certified instructor who owns and manages Harvest Hill Farm in Brentwood, New Hampshire, just 15 miles southwest of the UNH campus. Rachel first competed at the UNH Horse Trials in 1982 and considers it her home event; in fact, it’s the only USEA recognized event in the state of New Hampshire.

Through conversation with Christina Keim, the chair of the Horse Trials Committee, Rachel began to comprehend exactly the financial strain the horse trials were under and realized that it would be up to an outside force to clinch the resources needed to renovate, modernize and maintain the cross country course, further solidifying the future of the event at UNH. Thus, the Friends of UNH Cross Country was born.

Rachel set up Friends of UNH Cross Country as a non-profit organization separate from the university and instead associated with USEA Area I, thus ensuring all funds raised go directly to the cross country course as opposed to other university discretions. She recruited other talented eventers and enthusiasts into joining the cause as members, each bringing a unique skill that benefits the association.

Photo by Abby Powell.

Photo by Abby Powell

Julie Howard is one such talented person who has joined the cause, acting as co-chair beside Rachel. Julie is an alumni of the UNH School of Law and after taking a 30 year break from the equestrian world, she made it a goal to compete at UNH again, having competed there for the first time in 1977.

“UNH was always a high point in Area I for me, so I knew I wanted to ride there again,” Julie said. She achieved that goal a few years ago and also competed in the fall horse trials last month with her OTTB mare. “I just have so much passion for this cause, and giving back is so important.”

Friends of UNH Cross Country hopes to raise $50,000, which would allow for major renovations to the existing course, as well as the addition of several major upgrades and new elements. Repairs to existing fences, addition of footing to several trails, and cleaning up and widening existing trails are all a part the plan for improving safety for competitors, as well as for allowing greater flexibility in jump placement around the course.

One of the largest projects which would be undertaken is the removal of the Briggs Bank complex, which has begun to deteriorate rapidly and will soon be unsafe to use. After removal of the complex and leveling of the area, it will be decided if the bank complex should be replaced, and if so, where it should be located, or if other existing terrain should be turned into banks, drops or a sunken road.

Photo by Abby Powell

Photo by Abby Powell

Another phase of the project would focus on completing upgrades to the Preliminary course, like adding some new fences to allow for more options on course. A final stage of the project would add more Novice and Beginner Novice fences and bring in several Elementary obstacles for use by UNH students, anyone coming to school the course and potentially unrecognized divisions at future events.

Earlier this season the organization put out a call for local trainers, instructors, clinicians and venues to host events benefiting the organization, and the plea has thus far been met by a few generous and dedicated professionals. These benefit events account for approximately two-thirds of the $8,000 raised so far, with the remainder coming from a successful silent auction during the fall horse trials.

The response and fundraising has been slowly gaining momentum since Friends of UNH Cross Country was founded in February of this year. “Part of the larger goal is to keep Area I strong and growing,” Rachel said. “It takes almost a full year to schedule and organize events and clinics. A lot of folks were already scheduled for the season completely, so it’s hard to organize something additional.”

Photo by Abby Powell.

Photo by Abby Powell

Rachel is hopeful, though, that interest will keep building over the winter and that local trainers and farms will take advantage of the colder months to host indoor clinics and keep the cause in mind as they schedule and plan their season next summer. Several other fundraisers are in the works as well: another silent auction, a raffle for an unlimited schooling season pass on the UNH course and a jump sponsorship program.

The Friends of UNH Cross Country would be very happy to have additional members join the organization and invite anyone interested to attend their meetings. “We need people to get involved and to realize that this is everybody’s issue, not just UNH’s and not just Area I’s,” Rachel said. “When you keep equine venues alive, it benefits the whole equestrian community.”

Go Eventing.

[UNH Fall Horse Trials Final Scores]

Area I Schooling Horse Trials Championships Rewards Rising Stars

Melissa Iozzo and Start Me Up, winners of the Elementary Sr. championship. Photo by Paige Bassett/ Spotted Vision Photography. Melissa Iozzo and Start Me Up, winners of the Elementary Sr. championship. Photo by Paige Bassett/ Spotted Vision Photography.

On August 28th, competitors from around the Northeast flocked to the beautiful Apple Knoll Farm in Millis, MA, for the second annual Area I Schooling Horse Trials Championships (SHTC).

Conceived and initiated last year, the SHTC was formed to celebrate the achievements of competitors at the lower levels of eventing and give them an attainable goal to aim for throughout the year. It’s an event that unites the many unrecognized three-phase events in the region, while fostering some friendly competition for riders and horses for whom competing in USEA sanctioned events may not be an option yet.

Riders could qualify for the Championships by competing and placing at other schooling events throughout the area. Thirty-seven events hosted by 12 different farms over the course of the year served as qualifiers. An outstanding total of 396 horse and rider combinations qualified for this year’s event and 76 turned out for the competition.

The atmosphere and ideal facilities at Apple Knoll Farm as well as the brimming prize table gave the event a true championship feel. At stake this year were some fantastic prizes — including a custom cooler for the winner of each division — from generous sponsors like Bit of Britain, English Riding Supply, Equinature, Spotted Vision Photography, Heart of Dixie Blanket Wash, Massachusetts Horse Magazine, and Frog Hollow Sport Horses. The organizers also outdid themselves with the biggest, most beautiful ribbons you’ve ever seen at an unrecognized event.

Schooling Horse Trails Championship on Facebook.">Highview Farm took home quite the haul. Look at the size of these! Photo via Schooling Horse Trails Championship on Facebook.

High View Farm took home quite the haul. Look at the size of these! Photo via Schooling Horse Trails Championship on Facebook.

Organizing last year’s Championship was a successful learning experience that paved the way for increased awareness and growth this year. In addition to publicity from the qualifying venues themselves, advertisements in the programs of sanctioned events as well as in some prominent horse magazines in the region helped to call attention to this year’s event.

“We gained several more great farms as qualifiers for the event which bolstered awareness on social media and gave me more resources to put into advertising,” said Adrienne Iorio, owner of Apple Knoll Farm and organizer for the SHTC.

“We also had tons of fantastic reports about the Championships from riders last year. I am sure fantastic feedback helped with the excitement heading into the event this year and the large number of qualified riders.”

Emily Finnegan and Alla Breeza. Photo by Krystie Vrooman/ Spotted Vision Photography.

Emily Finnegan and Alla Breeza, winners of the Beginner Novice Jr. championship. Photo by Krystie Vrooman/ Spotted Vision Photography.

However, despite the impressive number of eligible competitors, there was only a marginal increase from the 68 entries last year. Adrienne is hoping to drum up even more excitement and awareness of the Championship for next year.

“We can comfortably run 125 riders a day at Apple Knoll Farm. I am hoping to reach capacity for next year,” she said.

Overall, the event ran wonderfully and all involved are looking forward to next year. Having now twice put the Championships together, Adrienne is looking to make several improvements in the future, including implementing an online system for entries. This would make the life of the show secretary, Laura Donovan, vastly easier.

Laura is an experienced equestrian with many skills including grooming and barn management for upper level operations of various disciplines including eventing. She is currently a full time barn manager and instructor at Apple Knoll Farm and the SHTC was thus far the largest and most complicated event that she has acted as secretary for.

“I got a steady stream of mail and things really got crazy the week prior to the event,” Laura recounted.

There were many challenges in organizing the entries for the SHTC including late entries, incomplete entries and competitors wishing to change divisions right up until the day before.  The day of the show was no less complicated.

“It was a bit like playing a chess match against multiple opponents,” Laura said. “I think there are definitely some things we can tweak to smooth everything out for everyone involved, but from all the feedback we’ve gotten, everyone was pleased. We had a safe and successful event, and at the end of the day that is the most important thing, win, lose or draw!”

Katie Channing and Total Deposit, winners of the Advanced Elementary Championship. Photo by Krystie Vrooman/ Spotted Vision Photography.

Katie Channing and Total Deposit, winners of the Advanced Elementary Championship. Photo by Krystie Vrooman/ Spotted Vision Photography.

Another improvement that Adrienne is eventually hoping to make happen is expanding the cross country course at Apple Knoll Farm. Not only would this benefit the SHTC, but it would brighten the future of USEA sanctioned events in Area 1 as well.

“Expanding the cross country course at Apple Knoll Farm may be a good step towards us running a sanctioned event again at some point in the future,” said Adrienne. “We are looking to add a bank complex and a water jump to the cross country course as well as opening up some new trails and room to run, but in order to do this we are looking for some bigger sponsors to help us along.”

“More entries and excitement for the Championships makes an easier sell to sponsors for next year. Without the fantastic farms opening their facilities for competition and the wonderful sponsors who provide prizes and help pay for courses, there would be nowhere to bring all these lovely event horses.”

Adrienne wants to make sure to remind all who attended the Championships to thank the farms that participated as qualifiers and the businesses that generously served as sponsors: “Writing a few quick notes to all involved helps to make your host farms and sponsors know they are appreciated.”

“Apple Knoll Farm is very aware that we have been losing events in Area 1. Our hope is that through programs like the Schooling Horse Trials Championship we will be inspiring more riders in Area 1 to get involved in eventing.”

Cassi Martin and Love You More. Winners of the Beginner Novice Sr championship. Photo by Paige Bassett/ Spotted Vision Photography.

Cassi Martin and Love You More, winners of the Beginner Novice Sr championship. Photo by Paige Bassett/ Spotted Vision Photography.

Special thanks to Paige Bassett of Spotted Vision Photography for providing us with some great photos!

Go Eventing.

10 Questions with Colleen Rutledge Presented by MOJO

Colleen Rutledge and Escot 6. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld. Colleen Rutledge and Escot 6. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

When you look at Colleen Rutledge’s riding resume, it’s hard to believe she’s only been on the four-star scene since 2011. She’s competed at five of the world’s six four-stars: Rolex, Badminton, Burghley, Pau and Luhmühlen. In fact, she was the first rider to complete them all on the same horse, Shiraz.

Colleen has since brought multiple other horses up to the four-star ranks, most notably her homebred Covert Rights, who completed Rolex and Burghley in 2015, but unfortunately had to be scratched from Rolex this year due to injury.

It’s been a lifetime of hard work and dedication for Colleen, who began riding a 2 years old and joined Pony Club at 8. She balances a loving family with her eventing career, operating Turnabout Farm in Mt. Airy, Maryland, and can often be found riding multiple horses in competition. Colleen was very kind to sit down with EN and answer some of our most pressing questions.

EN: Covert Rights had such a great start to the season this year, but sadly had to be scratched before Rolex. How’s he doing and when can we expect him to be back out and about?

Colleen: “CR is such an awesome pony and it was a bummer to not be able to cap off his spring with a run at Rolex, but these things happen. He is doing well and is progressing through his rehab but as with anything about horses, they’ll go at their own speed.

“He doesn’t understand why we won’t just let him go do whatever he wants. At this point right now, we are quite happy with how things look. He should be back in to full work in the next few months, barring any unforeseen setbacks. We’re just taking this time to go back and re-solidify our basics and fill in any training issues that we can find.”

Colleen Rutledge and Covert Rights. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Colleen Rutledge and Covert Rights. Photo by Jenni Autry.

EN: You had to take a little downtime yourself this summer for some elective surgery in mid-May, but you got back in the saddle in mid-June and were competing again at the Maryland HT II in mid-July. Was there anything in particular that helped you get back in the saddle so quickly?

Colleen: “There wasn’t anything in particular; it was more that I was tired of not doing anything. I don’t take inaction well at all, and I’m lucky to have some really great horses that I can trust to take care of me when I’m floppy. The best way for me to get back to being fitter is to work. I hadn’t planned on being out of the tack for so long, but it is what it is and sometimes you just have to roll with what life gives you. I have a whole new perspective on colic, though.”

EN: Rolex was probably a little disappointing for you this year, between scratching Covert Rights (CR) and a mandatory retirement with Escot 6 (Monkey) on cross country. How have you regrouped and moved ahead this season?

Colleen: “Just getting to Rolex is awesome, but yes, this year wasn’t how we wanted it to go, but that happens. The lows make you appreciate the highs, and this year definitely made it easy to appreciate the good years. But considering everyone walked away in good health, I’m not going to complain.

“I will say that I took a step back after Rolex and began to reevaluate the hows and whys of what happened with both CR and Monkey. We’ve revamped a number of different things and hopefully have come up with some solutions for some of the issues. It’s humbling, but I personally had to evaluate my part in everything and determine what I did, what I could have done and what I can do better in the future.”

EN: Escot 6 and Roulette both had great runs at Richland Park, with Escot 6 (Monkey) in third and Roulette (Rou) in 13th in his first 3*. What’s the future plan for them both?

Colleen: “I am so incredibly proud of both of them. They both were just fabulous, especially on cross country. My short-term plan for them both is to bring them to Fair Hill. Long-term plans will be made after we see how they run Fair Hill, but my gut instincts tell me Rou is going to need at least another CCI3*, as he is only 8 years old and a little slower to mature mentally.”

“Monkey will decide what he wants, but I’m hoping he really wants to see the cross country finish flags in Kentucky next year and jump the colorful poles in the big ring.”


Colleen Rutledge and Roulette at Pine Top. Photo by Hoofclix/LT.

Colleen Rutledge and Roulette at Pine Top. Photo by Hoofclix/LT.

EN: How do you stay organized throughout the weekend of a busy event and stay focused on each horse at the right time?

Colleen: “A. L. E. X. That’s all I have to say about that. Alex Ambelang is my head girl. She is THE reason I can function at the level I do. She can herd cats (me) like a pro. Not only does she take exceptional care of my ponies, but she runs the ship like a well oiled machine and makes sure that I have the time and ability to focus on my jobs. She is a one-in-a-million.”

EN: You have a few other up-and-coming horses in your barn going at Novice, Training, and Preliminary right now. Which are you particularly excited about and who should we be on the lookout for at big events in the near future?

Colleen: “All of my baby ponies are really quite special to me. They’ve all got something that I just love, whether it’s “Paul”’s (Paul just Paul) ridiculously flamboyant self both on the flat and over fences as well as his pocket pony personality, or “Pickle”’s (Your A to Z’s) game-face mustache and phenomenal canter. It could be “Conn”’s (Confidence Game) exuberance for everything and adorable pony nose. It’s so hard to pick just one to single out. Paul is definitely my jaw dropper, but he’s still trying to figure out if he wants to play this game.”

Three cheers for the grooms! Photo by Jenni Autry.

Super groom Alex Ambelang with Colleen Rutledge after Covert Rights finishing second in the 2016 Wellington Eventing Showcase. Photo by Jenni Autry.

EN: Your mother just got back into competing, your husband runs your social media, and your daughters ride as well. Tell us a little about how eventing is a family affair for you and what it means to you to have your whole family’s support.

Colleen: “I’m so incredibly lucky not only to be doing something that I love, but that I have the amazing support from my family. Everyone of them has made sacrifices to get me where I am, and I wouldn’t be the person I am without them.”

EN: You’ve become very accomplished internationally now, having completed all of the Northern Hemisphere four-star events plus representing the U.S. on the Nations Cup team at Aachen in 2015. What else is on your career bucket list? 

Colleen: “There are so many things that I’d like to do, but here are a few: I’d like to actually complete Aachen. It is such an amazing venue, I’m just bummed I didn’t get to finish the cross country course. I would like to repeatedly represent the U.S. at whatever venue they feel I’d be an asset. I’d like to continue to develop a string of four-star horses and not be known for having a specific type of ride, but for being able to get the best out of each and every horse. I’d like to continue to refine and enhance my skill set to improve my horses’ results.”

Colleen Rutledge and Roulette. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

Colleen Rutledge rocking her glasses at Richland Park. Photo by Leslie Wylie.

EN: We’ve noticed that you’re wearing glasses in some recent photos from this season. Are they a new addition? Fellow visually impaired equestrians may be curious to know: Did it take some getting used to riding in glasses and does it make any of the phases more difficult?

Colleen: “I had ridden for years in glasses and had finally gotten contacts in my late teens to correct an astigmatism, but it had become increasingly difficult to manage, mainly because I seem to keep riding in the rain, wind and dust. Having your contacts move as you’re galloping down to the first combination at Rolex Kentucky is not my idea of fun — not at all.

“Richland Park recently was especially hard with my glasses as the weather change was so frequent. As anyone who wears glasses knows, if you’ve been in a cold room and move into a steamy area, your glasses fog right up. As I was galloping down a hill on cross country heading towards the keyhole, we went through a drastic temperature change and my glasses went completely opaque. Not optimal conditions for seeing cross country fences.”

“I had recently been wearing glasses because I had just gone through an evaluation to get LASIK done on my eyes and couldn’t go back to contacts without skewing the results. But now, I am past my surgery, and I am loving being able to see without my glasses or contacts.”

EN: What do you like most about MOJO?

Colleen: “I was introduced to MOJO at Burghley last fall. I’m a horrible skeptic and some guy was telling me this rubbery bracelet was going to help me. ‘Pah. Mmmhmm,’ I said. Well, I put it on and while I was on the airplane flying home, I realized that my left leg wasn’t cramping.

“My left thigh has cramped since I broke my hip a few years ago, and this was the first plane ride where it felt better than tolerable. I also I noticed that my legs weren’t cramping as much when I was sleeping at night. I used to wake up at least once or twice a night, but now my MOJO has allowed me to get a better night’s sleep, which then helps me maintain my energy during the day.”

Want to try MOJO for yourself? Use the promo code COLLEEN on the MOJO website for $10 off your order!

10 Questions with Tim Bourke Presented by MOJO

Timothy Bourke and Luckaun Quality. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld. Timothy Bourke and Luckaun Quality. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Tim Bourke has become a very familiar face in the U.S. eventing scene since moving from his native Ireland a decade ago. He initially made his way over to the U.S. after graduating from college, landing a job with Bruce Davidson before going on to take an assistant trainer position with Sharon White.

Having now settled in Berryville, Virginia, where Tim and his wife Marley have owned Stone’s Throw Farm for nearly two years, Tim is rapidly expanding his business and also staying busy competing. He has climbed to the top levels of the sport with Luckaun Quality (“Obie”), and the pair has proved their mettle with three consecutive Rolex Kentucky appearances, finishing just outside the top 10 this year. They also added a big completion to their resume at Burghley last fall (and made an epic save).

EN was lucky to sit down with Tim to ask him some of our burning questions. Be sure to read to the bottom of the article for an exclusive promo code from MOJO, one of Tim’s newest sponsors.

EN: How did you ultimately decide to put down roots in the States?

Tim: “I’ve been competing here for about 10 years now, basically ever since I started working for Bruce. Marley and I did go back to Ireland for a bit while we were still dating and she transferred to the National University of Ireland Galway for school, but I didn’t get to compete in Ireland as much as I wanted. It was a pretty easy decision to come back in the end and once we did, we knew that was it.”

EN: You and Marley are coming up on two years of farm ownership in December. How has it been teaching and training at your own place?

Tim: “It’s awesome. It’s been really, really good being able to concentrate on myself as well as building the business. We have 16 horses in training now and some great girls working for us. Marley does a great job of running the business and taking care of the accounts and scheduling the lessons. I’m lucky that all I have to do is ride and teach!”

EN: What would you say to someone dreaming of starting their own business as a rider and trainer?

Tim: “If you do it, you have to realize that it’s not a job and it’s not a career — it’s a lifestyle. You have to be prepared for it to become your life. It’s like a lot of things though, where you get what you put into it. I really believe that if you’re a good, honest, hard worker then there’s no reason you can’t be successful at it.”

EN: You and Obie have really formed a strong partnership as you’ve made your way up to the four-star level. What’s next for Obie?

Tim: “Aa lot of people have been asking me that because I’ve been giving him a good bit of time off after Rolex Kentucky this year. He actually came out of Kentucky pretty foot sore, not because of the actual event — the footing there was nice and soft — but because all the run up to the event itself was so hard. It was a lot.

“But here’s the thing: the horse is 11 years old, and he’s done four four-stars in three years now. My life goal is to be on a national team for Ireland, and I know he can be my horse for that, but we’re going to have to be more competitive on the flat in order to get there. So we’re going to do a ton of flatwork over the winter and try to improve, plus maybe do a few jumper shows as well.

“We’ll aim for Rolex again next year and just keep trying to get the team selectors to notice us hopefully for the WEG in two years. You have to understand though how many good riders are out there for Ireland. Especially after watching the Olympics, it’s extremely competitive. You have to keep working for it and going out there and proving yourself.”

EN: Do you currently have any up-and-coming young horses that you’re particularly excited about?

Tim: “The horses that I have coming up the lines are fantastic. We have three horses qualified for the Young Event Horse Championships at Fair Hill in the fall. Quality Time, owned by Carla Abramcheck, and Foreign Quality, owned by Marley, are qualified for the 5-year-old division, plus Quality Pop, also owned by Marley, is qualified for the 4-year-olds. We also have four others that are qualified for a one-star now.

“I really believe that you don’t build a career on one horse. You need others in the pipeline so that when the time comes you have options. You look at the people out there at the top of our sport, and they have more than one horse. I’m not fortunate enough to be able to go out and buy made top horses, but I would rather spend the time and make them myself anyway.”

EN: What do you like about bringing along young horses?

Tim: “There’s never a hole in their history. You know exactly who the horse is from start to finish.”

EN: The majority of horses in your program right now are Irish imports. What is it about Irish Sport Horses that you like so much?

Tim: “I can’t necessarily say it’s one trait in particular about the Irish horses. It’s more about the Irish people, their breeding programs and how the horses are prepared from a young age. Plus the amount of young horses and the quality of horses that go through Ireland is just incredible.

“There’s a huge quantity of horses to choose from, not just eventers, but a lot of top class show jumpers as well. I don’t necessarily go for the big-name sourcers; I generally cut out the middle man. To be perfectly honest, I have a couple of show jump friends that I get a lot of horses from and find them to be very successful.”

EN: Irish Sport Horses have been one of the most represented breed at some of the most recent four-star events (including Rolex 2016 and Rio 2016). Why do you think Irish Sport Horse breeding programs have been so successful ?

Tim: “They have a lot of great organizations in Ireland that help produce young horses and support the breeding programs. Websites like Irish Horse Gateway are working to promote the breeders directly as opposed to the buyers. Plus there are an incredible number of sales like the Goresbridge Go for Gold sale for eventers and Millstreet sale for show jumpers.”

“The breeders have also just been good at what they do. Right now they’re tending to mix the old stock with warmblood breeds to get the modern type that people are looking for. In a way it’s sad to see that the traditional Irish horse isn’t getting promoted the way it used to, but it shows that the breeders are adapting and evolving to meet the demand. It’s about creating something that’s marketable.”

EN: If all the Irish Horses suddenly disappeared off the planet, what breed would you then prefer to ride?

Tim: “I think what some American breeding programs are trying to do with crossing Thoroughbreds with continental horses like German or Dutch Warmbloods is quite nice too. There are a lot of nice horses in the U.S. as well; it just needs to be built upon.”

Tim proves he's always got his MOJO - even while giving interviews! Photo by Tim Bourke.

Tim proves he’s always wears his MOJO bracelet, even while giving interviews! Photo courtesy of Tim Bourke.

EN: What do you like most about MOJO?

Tim: “I like that it works! I have problems with muscle spasms in my neck, probably from an injury I had as a kid. Every now and then my neck would go out, sometimes during something as simple as putting a quarter sheet on a horse. One time I just fell to my knees crippled.

“I tried everything to fix it. I don’t like massage. I tried magna wave therapy and it didn’t help. Then one of my friends said, ‘Here put this on,’ and it was a MOJO bracelet. Over that weekend my neck got better and eventually just stopped hurting. That was three years ago and I haven’t taken my MOJO bracelet off since.

“I’m just a believer in it, and I’m not a superstitious person, but my neck hasn’t gone out since I put it on. My dog Blue wears a MOJO patch on his collar too. He’s a Cardigan Welsh Corgi and has got bad arthritis in one of his legs. The MOJO makes him a lot more comfortable also.”

Want to try MOJO for yourself? Use the promo code MOJO10BUCKS on the MOJO website for $10 off your order!

Sale of King Oak Farm Forces Cancellation of Fall Event

King Oak Farm, EN Archive Photo King Oak Farm, EN Archive Photo

King Oak Farm announced yesterday that its USEA sanctioned fall horse trials on September 10-11th this year would be cancelled due to the sale of the farm. It is hopeful that the new owners will run a horse trials in 2017, but the traditional fall event is unable to go on at this time.

Fran and Tom Cross have owned the 180 acre property in Southampton, MA since 1982 when the couple purchased the farm from Fran’s parents. It has been the site of two recognized horse trials per year since then, in addition to hosting a recognized dressage show and several schooling shows yearly.

The spring event held in early May every year has been a particularly popular event over years, as it’s served as one of the first events in Area I every spring. Fran herself has been the organizer of the shows held at Kind Oak as well as serving as a judge at other events in the Area.

Fran and Tom will be continuing to run their business at a smaller property in Ocala where they look forward to seeing many familiar faces as winter boarders. Fran, Tom, and King Oak Farm proper will be sorely missed by the Area I eventing community, but we wish them the very best in their next chapter and many thanks for running such wonderful events for over 30 years.

Then and Now: Helmets in Olympic Eventing Dressage

Gemma Tattersall and Quicklook V. Photo by Jenni Autry. Gemma Tattersall and Quicklook V. Photo by Jenni Autry.

It was a historic year for eventing at the Olympics for a host of reasons. But aside from the toughest cross country course in modern Olympic eventing history and witnessing the greatness that is Michael Jung, there is one more new record that you may or may not have noticed: the number of helmets worn during the dressage phase.

We have been witness to something of a revolution in eventing since 2010 after Courtney King Dye’s traumatic brain injury sparked a movement in helmet awareness. That year we also saw Allison Springer break the mold at Rolex Kentucky as the only rider to wear a helmet during dressage as opposed to the traditional top hat.

Particularly at Rolex, as the CCI4* with the largest contingent of North American competitors, we’ve watched the number of helmet-wearers significantly increase over the past few years: 57% in 2014, 84% in 2015 and 86% this year.

Sandra Auffarth and Opgun Louvo. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Sandra Auffarth and Opgun Louvo. Photo by Jenni Autry.

The trend is also catching on internationally. Of the 65 competitors that cantered down the centerline during the dressage phase of eventing at the 2016 Olympic Games, 35 chose to wear helmets in lieu of top hats. That’s 54% of the field wearing helmets, the greatest percentage of helmet-wearers in a major international championships to date.

Compare that to the 2012 London Olympics when just 3% of competitors elected to wear helmets, and to the 2014 World Equestrian Games when 23% donned helmets.

Of the 12 nations fielding full teams in Rio, three had all helmet-wearing representatives (Canada, Italy and the Netherlands) and three were represented solely by those who wore top hats (Australia, France and New Zealand). The other six teams had a mix of top hats and helmets.

William Fox-Pitt and Chilli Morning. Photo by Jenni Autry.

William Fox-Pitt and Chilli Morning. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Perhaps most notably, we still saw William Fox-Pitt in his signature top hat after suffering a brain injury in a fall last October. Commenting on his decision, William said, “I have always worn a top hat in dressage. I have done that for 33 years. And I will not wear a crash helmet unless they change the rules and force me to.”

What do you think, EN? Will this trend continue, with more and more event riders wearing helmets in dressage? Will we see even more than 54% of the field wearing  helmets at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics? Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments.

Go Eventing.

Rio 2016 at a Glance: Meet the Horses

Olympic madness is upon us and excitement is building as the riders and horses settle in for the event ahead. With the first horse inspection scheduled for Friday, let’s take a closer look at the equine competitors for these Olympic Games.



rio at a glance


rio at a glance


rio at a glance


rio at a glance


Rio at a glance

Stay tuned for more editions of ‘At a Glance’ as the Games go on!

Go Eventing.

Gigi McIntosh Is On the Road to Rio

Margaret Margaret "Gigi" McIntosh and Rio Rio. Photo by Lindsay Y. McCall.

As the saying goes: When you fall off the horse, you have to get back on again. Eventers know this well, and perhaps Margaret “Gigi” McIntosh knows this best of all. Gigi has been knocked down — both figuratively and literally — many times, but each time she returns with more determination than ever. Now this former eventer turned para-dressage rider is headed to the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Gigi began riding at six years old and as a high schooler spent her summers as a working student for May and Denny Emerson. She later managed the dressage barn of Gunnar Ostergaard and Ellin Dixon after graduating college, and eventually her equestrian pursuits led her to Germany, where she apprenticed for legendary dressage riders George and Inge Theodorescu and their daughter Monica.

Gigi met her husband, Brian, while on an African safari, and in 1983 the couple married and returned to the States where they later had two children and Gigi started competing in eventing.

In 1987 Gigi began working with Bruce Davidson Sr. and continued training with him for over a decade. Though she was included in the Developing Rider program in 1996 and 1997 and rode alongside members of World Championship and Olympic teams on a daily basis, Gigi says her aspirations were never really aimed at an event as prestigious and selective as the Olympics.

“I knew very well that I was just an amateur,” Gigi said. “Riding in the big four-star three-day events seemed a distant but more attainable goal, especially since I had two really nice Thoroughbreds competing at the Advanced level along with Bruce’s help.”

A life-changing injury

The culmination of Gigi’s eventing career came in 1998 as she completed the very first CCI4* at Rolex Kentucky with her own Flashy Turn. “I finished that event so sure that it was just the first of many, I didn’t even buy the video!” Gigi said. But it was a spring day in 1999 at Morven Park that would change the rest of her life.

Gigi broke her C-6 vertebrae in a fall over an Intermediate fence and was instantly paralyzed from her chest down, she was ultimately diagnosed with incomplete quadriplegia. Many with the same diagnosis would be relegated to a wheelchair for life, but not Gigi. With a determination to get stronger, Gigi quickly progressed through physical therapy and laid the groundwork for getting back in the saddle, though she had no notions of ever competing again.

“Having been totally preoccupied with my horses for the previous 10 years, I faced a void after my accident,” Gigi said. “I was lost without the daily relationship with a horse.”

Six months after her accident, Gigi was back in the saddle. With the help of fellow eventer Jane Cory, Gigi began a hippotherapy program at the Cort Center for Therapeutic Riding at Pleasant Hollow Farm in Pleasant Valley, Pennsylvania. It was enough to satisfy her itch to ride again, yet conservative and safe enough to keep her husband satisfied. “Nothing is as much fun as going cross country, but I was so lucky to be able to enjoy riding at all,” Gigi said.

Gigi continued to work hard both in and out of the saddle to test her her body’s new capabilities. Shortly after her physical therapy ended, she started to frequent a local able-bodied gym where she could use the controlled movements of the weight machines to build muscle and strength. She also re-learned how to swim though actuation therapy and was able to join spinning classes as well.

Missy and Gigi. Photo by Lindsay Y. McCall.

Missy Ransehousen and Gigi McIntosh in Wellington with Rio Rio. Photo by Lindsay Y. McCall.

Becoming a para-equestrian

As Gigi continued her hippotherapy program for several years, her hunger to compete returned. Her good friend Jan Smith, a long-time supporter of eventing and owner for the Davidson family, saw Gigi’s determination to compete again and gifted her with the ultimate present in Idalgo.

Known as “Hobbs” around the barn, Idalgo was a retired four-star mount of Buck Davidson’s with a gentle disposition. Hobbs and Gigi immediately formed a bond, and the Selle Francais gelding took to his second career as a para-dressage mount as kindly and naturally as could be.

Jane recommended that Gigi train with Missy Ransehousen, the coach of the U.S. Para-Equestrian Team at the time. Gigi and Hobbs started the next chapter of their journey by moving to Blue Hill Farm, which offers training from Missy, a Pan American Games silver medalist in eventing, and Jessica, a three-time Olympian in dressage. Able-bodied and para-equestrians train alongside each other on a daily basis at Blue Hill.

With a coach to guide them, Gigi and Hobbs were suddenly in the the pipeline to qualify for the 2012 Paralympics in London. “At last, I was back in a program of short term goals leading to meaningful accomplishments,” Gigi said.

Training under Missy and riding at Blue Hill Farm helped to transform the way Gigi viewed her new riding abilities. “As I spent more time at Blue Hill Farm, I found the para riders to be serious competitors, assiduously training with Missy and Jessica in order to meet their international goals,” Gigi said.

“It took 10 years for me to realize that the muscles in my legs would never be strong enough to overcome my spasticity and that if I wanted to compete, I would need the adaptive accommodations of the para-dressage regulations.”

Para-Dressage competitors are permitted to use adaptive equipment to compensate for a lack of physical or sensory limitation, as opposed to a training aid for the horse or a means of compensating for a lack of skill.

Gigi’s approved modifications include special loops in the reins to compensate for grip strength in her hands and a tether that secures her feet in the stirrups near the girth in order to control the spasticity in her legs. With these accommodations, Gigi went from struggling to canter — her right leg would fly straight out from the horse — to riding canter half-passes again.

In FEI competition, para-equestrian riders are assigned grades based on their functional ability, including mobility, strength and and coordination, with Grade IV being the least severely impaired and Grade 1a being the most severely impaired. This classification system allows for meaningful competition between riders of the same grade.

Gigi was classified as 1b, which rides tests equivalent to USDF Training Level and with 60 percent of the test scored at a walk. Knowing that Hobbs did not have the type of walk to be competitive at the London 2012 U.S. Selection Trials, Gigi borrowed a mount and unfortunately missed making the team by 0.01%.

Missy Ransehousen jogs Rio Rio in Wellington. Photo by Lindsay Y. McCall.

Missy Ransehousen jogs Rio Rio in Wellington. Photo by Lindsay Y. McCall.

Dreaming big

With that disappointment behind them, Gigi and Missy set their sights on the 2014 World Equestrian Games and ultimately the 2016 Paralympic Games, but to be successful they knew Gigi would need a special horse with a world-class walk. Their search for a new mount ultimately culminated in the fall of 2013 with the purchase of Rio Rio, a very aptly named Rheinlander mare.

To a casual observer, it may seem that a para-equestrian dressage test is a proverbial walk in the park, but that’s not the case at all. Missy explains: “The walk is the hardest gait in any test. You have to have the same stride and the same connection throughout the test. For able-bodied riders, we can add a little trot and canter to jazz the horse up and rebuild the connection, but to just walk for five minutes straight in a test is really hard.”

A horse with a very clear walk stride, which Rio Rio has, helps to maximize scores. Rio Rio also thrives in the big competition settings; since she is a quiet horse by nature, the atmosphere helps her shine. In addition to Gigi practicing her tests a few days a week, Missy also rides Rio Rio, showing her at Third and Fourth levels to keep her fit and interested in the work.

In the spring of 2014, Gigi and Rebecca Hart, a fellow Blue Hill Farm para-equestrian, took their mounts to Europe to get some mileage before the World Equestrian Games Selection Trials. Everything seemed to be falling into place, but just prior to their second competition in Belgium, Gigi began experiencing excruciating pain while trotting. The pain led to a request to reclassify Gigi’s grade to 1a, which is walk only.

The European classifiers granted the request and assured Missy and Gigi that her new classification status was confirmed. However, when Gigi arrived at the WEG Selection Trials in Gladstone, New Jersey, two months later, she was asked to submit medical documentation to the FEI supporting her re-classification.

Gigi scrambled to hand in what documentation she had before the end of the competition, but it was not enough, and she was forced to forfeit her spot on the 2014 WEG team as a result. An MRI later that year provided Gigi with a diagnosis of scoliosis, stenosis and atherosclerosis, which cemented her 1a reclassification.

Not making the 2014 WEG team was particularly disappointing, as the ultimate result was out of Gigi and Missy’s hands. “I could only hope the issue would be resolved in my favor,” Gigi said.

Missy recalls: “It was a huge communication issue between the U.S. and European classifiers. Had we known prior to the Selection Trials that the reclassification had not actually been confirmed, we would have had time to get the right paperwork in order.”

Sue Stickle.">Gigi praises Rio Rio after a successful test. Photo by Sue Stickle.

Gigi praises Rio Rio after a successful test. Photo by Sue Stickle.

Never giving up

Gigi has a knack for looking ahead no matter what hardships come her way, and she and her team put the disappointment behind them once again to set their sights on Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Looking back, Missy thinks that missing WEG could have been a blessing in disguise: “It only gets better with time with these horses, and Gigi had only been on Rio Rio for six months at this point. They have a much stronger connection now and are both so much more ready.”

Gigi and Rio Rio demonstrated their connection and preparation at the U.S. Selection Trials for the 2016 Paralympic Games, which took place in Grass Lake, Michigan earlier this year. They won the Grade 1a Freestyle and the Grade 1a Championship, taking sixth place overall. Scores from that weekend were averaged with scores from international competitions throughout the season to determine the 2016 U.S. Paralympic squad.

Gigi had finally made it.

“I still cannot quite believe it!” Gigi said. “It has taken my whole life to get this far. Despite every setback, Missy has been as committed as I have over the past five years. She and her mother, Jessica, have invested countless hours in Rio Rio and myself in pursuit of this goal. Their support and that of my friends and family has been invaluable.”

The U.S. Paralympic Team also consists of Sydney Collier, Rebecca Hart and Annie Peavy, all of whom are some of Gigi’s best para-equestrian friends. “I am very excited to be on the Paralympic Team for this adventure in Rio with them,” she said.

Gigi’s story shows how a positive attitude and “get back on the horse” mentality can carry a person through difficult times and ultimately lead to new heights. “Gigi has always had a determination her whole life to be the best she can,” Missy said. “Her personality is very driving, but in a kind way. She is always conscientious and respectful about what it takes to make it happen for her.”

When asked if she has any advice for someone who feels like the odds are stacked against them, Gigi said: “The voice inside your head is the most important one! Very early on in my recovery, I resolved to stay positive.”

Gigi has also lived by a famous mantra from Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.”

And most importantly?

“Never ever give up!”

Area 1 Young Riders Head to Colorado for NAJYRC

Katie Lichten and RF Luminati. Photo by Joan Davis/ Flatlandsfoto. Katie Lichten and RF Luminati. Photo by Joan Davis/ Flatlandsfoto.

Northeast eventers will be saying bon voyage to the 2016 NAJYRC team later this week as the riders, horses, and grooms begin their trek to Parker, Colorado to compete in North American Junior and Young Rider Championships from July 27-31.

After a six-month selection process, the CCI* team was announced last week and includes Cornelia Dorr, Katie Lichten, Maddie Lichten, and Erica Jarrell along with Eliza Eddy and Haley Rosenberg as individual riders. Sloane Pierpont and Natasha Knight were named as first and second reserve riders, respectively. Katie Litchen and Erica Jarrell are both returning team members, having represented Area 1 last year in Kentucky.

Cornelia Dorr and Sir Patico MH. Photo by Joan Davis/ Flatlandsfoto.

Cornelia Dorr and Sir Patico MH. Photo by Joan Davis/ Flatlandsfoto.

Eliza Eddy and LVS Jackson. Photo by Joan Davis/ Flatlandsfoto.

Eliza Eddy and LVS Jackson. Photo by Joan Davis/ Flatlandsfoto.

The team was finalized after the last mandatory selection outing which was held at GMHA on July 3. This year, a Young Rider Advancement Program Invitational was held alongside the final selection event, which invited promising Training level young riders to participate in the competition as well, gaining valuable experience along the way.

Young Riders that will be joining the team as grooms are Laine Metz, Sloane Pierpont, Anna Billings, Grace Bartolotti, Magdalene Meek and Bridgette Kuchta. Anna Billings also represented Area 1 in 2015 as a rider; this year she is giving back to the team as groom.

Erica Jarrell and Uni Sprite. Photo by Joan Davis/ Flatlandsfoto.

Erica Jarrell and Uni Sprite. Photo by Joan Davis/ Flatlandsfoto.

Maddie Lichten and Yarrow. Photo by Joan Davis/ Flatlandsfoto.

Maddie Lichten and Yarrow. Photo by Joan Davis/ Flatlandsfoto.

The Area 1 Young Riders Program had a record-breaking season of fundraising this year. Thanks to the hard work of the riders and the generosity of donors around the Area, this year’s goal was knocked out of the park.

“This is an exceptionally talented group of horses and riders heading for Colorado,” Deb Meek, Area 1 Young Rider Program Coordinator, said. The team will be competing under the guidance of coach Mikki Kuchta and Chef d’Equipe Carol Mayo.

Haley Rosenberg and Evil Munchkin. Photo by Joan Davis/ Flatlandsfoto.

Haley Rosenberg and Evil Munchkin. Photo by Joan Davis/ Flatlandsfoto.

Best of luck to the team in Colorado and special thanks to Joan Davis of Flatlandsfoto for these great pictures from the final selection outing at GMHA.

Groton House Farm Hosts Picture-Perfect Weekend

Anna Loschiavo and Prince Renan, winners of the Intermediate/Preliminary division. Photo by Joan Davis/ Flatlandsfoto.

Anna Loschiavo and Prince Renan, winners of the Intermediate/Preliminary division. Photo by Joan Davis/ Flatlandsfoto.

Area 1 eventers made their annual pilgrimage to the beloved Groton House Farm Horse Trials in Hamilton, Massachusetts this past weekend, where competitors, volunteers and organizers alike were rewarded with a picture-perfect weekend of eventing fun.

Dressage day on Friday was busy with five concurrently running rings accommodating the 240 competitors in Novice through Intermediate/Preliminary divisions, plus dressage schooling tests. The lowest score of the weekend went to Katie Lichten and Womble with a 26.50, which the pair finished on to win the Junior Open Novice division.

Lacey Ogden and Cooley Higher Ground, winners of the Training/Novice division. Photo by Joan Davis/ Flatlandsfoto.

Lacey Ogden and Cooley Higher Ground, winners of the Training/Novice division. Photo by Joan Davis/Flatlandsfoto.

Though the sunny weekend was welcomed by all, a lack of rain over the previous week meant firmer ground for galloping on cross country day, and many competitors opted for a slower pace coming in over the time allowed. The Novice and Preliminary courses took riders through the notorious Sunken Road, which shook up the standings and unfortunately ended the weekend early for a few competitors.

Hallie Coon and Lansdownne, winners of the Preliminary/Training division. Photo by Joan Davis/ Flatlandsfoto.

Hallie Coon and Lansdownne, winners of the Preliminary/Training division. Photo by Joan Davis/ Flatlandsfoto.

Groton House Farm, owned by Ann Getchell and the Winthrop family, takes pride in running the event over three full days, culminating in a traditional victory gallop after show jumping on Sunday. Anna Loschiavo was a big winner over the weekend as she led three victory gallops on the final day. Anna won the Intermediate/Preliminary division with Prince Renan, Senior Open Training-A with Ace of Hearts and Senior Open Training-B with Fernhill Swatch.

“I’m feeling especially grateful for the amazing group of horses I get to ride and train and my horse family and sponsors,” Anna posted on her Facebook page. “I’m still trying to comprehend the weekend and am so thankful for the partnership I have with each of these horses.”

Sarah Blum and Northern Light, winners of the Senior Open Novice-C division. Photo by Joan Davis/ Flatlandsfoto.

Sarah Blum and Northern Light, winners of the Senior Open Novice-C division. Photo by Joan Davis/ Flatlandsfoto.

The traditional three-day schedule was disrupted last year by a springtime Nor’Easter, but this weekend was the polar opposite as volunteers and patrons sat in the shade of the ancient oak trees or under the sponsor’s tent.

During lunch, spectators were treated to a demonstration given by students of Windrush Farm Therapeutic Equitation Inc., a long-time beneficiary of the Groton House Farm Horse Trials. The annual volunteer award was presented to Tim Murray with honorable mention going to David and Tori Wilson for their tireless efforts in organizing and volunteering during the event.

Lots of fun competitions have been happening throughout the season for the Adult Rider Program, and the Area 1 Adult Riders Program’s “As Good As It Gets” competition added extra excitement to cross country day at Groton House this year. The competition awarded ribbons to the six highest placed Adult Rider Program members in each division, with the first place member receiving a bag of goodies for horse and rider.

Sarah Morton and Tuxedo, winners of the Senior Open Novice-B division. Photo by Joan Davis/ Flatlandsfoto.

Sarah Morton and Topper, winners of the Senior Open Training-C division. Photo by Joan Davis/ Flatlandsfoto.

A trio of fundraising events over the weekend were hugely successful in raising money for the 2016 NAJYRC Area 1 team’s trip to Colorado in July. A silent auction, a supper and live auction hosted by the Lichten family at their own Aquila Farms on Friday night, and a stall cleaning service on Sunday resulted in a record breaking effort that raised more than $11,000.

The icing on the cake, according to Deb Meek, Area 1 Young Riders Program Coordinator, was the domination of the top placings in the Junior Young Rider Open Preliminary division by NAJYRC team candidates.

“The Area 1 Young Riders wish to pass along their immense gratitude to Ann Getchell and Liz Wheaton for their extraordinary support along with every person or company that donated ideas, time, effort, and merchandise,” Deb said. “It was a stunning effort!”

Sloane Pierpont and Indie, winners of the Junior Young Rider Open Preliminary Division. Photo by Joan Davis/ Flatlandsfoto.

Sloane Pierpont and Indie, winners of the Junior Young Rider Open Preliminary Division. Photo by Joan Davis/ Flatlandsfoto.

As always, a huge thank you to Joan Davis of Flatlandsfoto for these great shots of a few of the weekend’s winners. Go Eventing.

[Groton House Farm Final Scores]

Meet Mary Davis: Winner of the Great KER ClockIt Fitness Challenge

Photo courtesy of Mary Davis Photo courtesy of Mary Davis

This spring we partnered with Kentucky Equine Research (KER) to bring you the Great KER Clockit Fitness Challenge. Readers dutifully submitted their sessions using the KER Clockit Sport app for a chance to win some amazing prizes and we have a winner!

Huge congratulations to Mary Davis and her horse, Hogan!

Originally from Columbia, Maryland, Mary has been riding since the age of 8 and has owned Hogan since she was 16. Hogan is an OTTB who had raced 11 times before being being restarted under saddle. When Mary purchased him, the then 6-year-old Hogan was jumping 2’6” courses, but she knew he had the potential to go higher considering he had jumped out of a his field over a five-foot fence a few times.

Mary and Hogan’s journey in eventing hasn’t been completely smooth-sailing — the pair didn’t complete the cross-country phase of their event together — but they have steadily improved and progressed. Mary brought Hogan to school with her at Virginia Tech where she was a member of the Eventing Club and after graduating early last summer with her bachelor’s degree, they completed their first Novice USEA recognized event at Waredaca, their home base during winter and summer breaks from school.

Mary Davis and Hogan - your KER Clockit Fitness Challenge winners! Photo courtesy of Mary Davis.

Mary Davis and Hogan: Your Great KER ClockIt Fitness Challenge winners! Photo courtesy of Mary Davis.

Now 22 years old, Mary is a second year veterinary student at the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in Massachusetts and Hogan has again accompanied her to school, boarding just a mile away at Emerald Isles Eventing Center.

“I’m working hard to find enough time to ride him between classes,” said Mary. “Our goal this year is to qualify for the Classic 3-day at Waredaca.”

Mary is specifically looking to pursue equine medicine and she is especially interested in focusing on nutrition and sports medicine. As a scientifically-minded veterinary student, the KER Clockit app particularly piqued Mary’s interest.

The free app helps take the guesswork out of equine fitness by monitoring heart rate, speed, distance and altitude during rides. EN’s guide to the app explains all the details: 7 Reasons to Download KER ClockIt Sport.

“KER Clockit has been great in helping me keep him fit during our conditioning days because it lets me know when a set is done and to move on to the next one,” she said. “I like being able to look back at all the graphs and see how hard Hogan was working or if he wasn’t quite working hard enough.”

Mary’s winning session took place during March in Westborough, Massachusetts. It was Hogan’s first conditioning set day of the season: “The session started when we were walking over to the field. The field has some rolling hill and flat sections on it,” she reported. “Our first canter set was faster than normal because Hogan decided even after our first winter in Massachusetts he felt fit and raring to go!”

KER Clockit

Mary’s winning KER Clockit Session.

In addition to $100 gift card to and an EcoGold Secure XC Saddle Pad, Mary also won a lesson of her choice from either Buck Davidson, Liz Halliday-Sharp, or Dom or Jimmie Schramm. Mary chose to have her lesson with Buck, whom she hopes can help her improve Hogan’s rideability and adjustability over fences, as well as his confidence.

“Hogan tends to be timid when it comes to cross country and I would love for some help working on making him braver,” she said.

Congratulations again to Mary, and thank you to everyone who participated in the Challenge!

Go Eventing.

Ringfort Tinkaturk Wins Side Saddle Championship at Devon in New Career

Ringfort Tinkaturk and Sue Sisco at the Devon Horse Show. Photo by Hoof Print Images, courtesy of Barbara Wanamaker.

Ringfort Tinkaturk and Sue Sisco. Photo by Hoof Print Images.

It’s the year of the side saddle here on EN. We have already met an accomplished and intrepid side saddle foxhunter in Lady Martha Sitwell, cheered for side saddle eventers and The Flying Irishwoman Susan Oakes in point-to-point races, watched Boyd Martin try his hand at riding aside, and now we have an event horse that’s been crowned a side saddle champion.

Just a few short months after his sale and career change, Lizzie Snow’s former two-star mount Ringfort Tinkaturk, or “Jacob” as he is known around the barn, took home the Ladies Side Saddle Championship at the Devon Horse Show for his new owner Barbara (Babbie) Wanamaker and rider/trainer Sue Sisco.

Earlier this spring, Lizzie sent Jacob to be sold through Pippa Moon in Aiken. Though Jacob progressed quickly to the two-star level and served as Lizzie’s CH-Y2* mount at the 2013 North American Junior & Young Rider Championships, she felt he didn’t have the fitness potential to be a three- or four-star horse.

“I wanted him to find something that he enjoyed doing and that was easy for him,” Lizzie said. “He is a very talented horse that doesn’t get upset by anything. He always seemed like he would be great in the hunter or equitation ring.”

Lizzie Snow and Ringfort Tinkaturk at the 2014 Dutta Corp Fair Hill International. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Lizzie Snow and Ringfort Tinkaturk at the 2014 Dutta Corp Fair Hill International. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Pippa was able to find the perfect home for Jacob with Babbie, who was initially attracted to Jacob’s way of going and style of jumping. She also loved his kind temperament and great ground manners.

“After I rode him, it was clear that he had a wonderful quiet temperament, was easy to ride and had the scope that I was looking for in a horse,” Babbie said.

Jacob wasn’t originally destined for side saddle riding — Babbie’s interests lie mainly in showing in hunters astride, though she also enjoys showing side saddle — but he happened to show an affinity for the discipline under trainer Sue Sisco of Sunfield Inc.

After only a short time to practice the new discipline, Jacob and Sue clinched the Side Saddle Championship title at the Devon Horse Show by winning both the Ladies Side Saddle Over Fences and Under Saddle classes, as well as taking fourth place in the Hunter Hack.

Lizzie Snow and Ringfort Tinkaturk at Southern Pines in 2013. Photo by Crow's Toes Photography.

Lizzie Snow and Ringfort Tinkaturk at Southern Pines in 2013. Photo by Crow’s Toes Photography.

“I think Lizzie’s style and training along with his talent and disposition really paved the way for an easy transition to side saddle and showing,” Babbie said. “The lead changes were probably the biggest challenge. It’s a little more tricky to work on those when you only have one leg to use!”

Future plans for Jacob include showing in amateur hunter divisions and hunter derbies with Babbie, as well as simply having fun and enjoying their time together. 

“He will spend the bulk of his time trail riding at home, doing some paper chases and being one of my four-legged family members,” Babbie said.

Lizzie is thrilled to see her former partner find success with his new family, no matter what tack he wears: “I didn’t know he would end up being in the ring as a side saddle horse, but how cool is that? He looks very happy, and I know he has the perfect home.”